Erik Spoelstra was named Eastern Conference coach of the month after the Heat's turnaround. LeBron responded. Not since Descartes, or perhaps Clinton, have so few words been vivisected so utterly and completely.
Here are James's comments, as they would appear in a newspaper or as taken down by an impartial court stenographer.
I think it's great. For the month of December we played the best basketball of any team in the league and he had a lot to do with it. As players, we went out and executed."
At first glance, innocuous. The kind of bland thing we'd expect from James, or just about any other athlete. "Great." "A lot to do with it." "We went out and executed." Were I an editor on deadline, I'd take from that that LeBron is happy for his coach, thinks he earned the honor, and that the players were simply getting done what Spoelstra preached.
Others are taking a lot more from it than that, starting with FOX Sports' Bill Reiter.
On this night, all the writers around me heard it the same way, even guys who often hear LeBron much differently than I do: LeBron making it clear that the credit was not Erik Spoelstra's...Just clear as day how The King feels about his superior.
Hold on now. How does one opposite-of-forceful quote lead to two completely opposite conclusions?
You had to be there, says Reiter. He relays the quote thus (italics his):
For the month of December we played the best basketball of any team in the league and he had a lot to do with it," he said. "As players, we went out and executed."
The emphasis changes things. Now LeBron's saying that all the credit should go to the players. Or wait, maybe he's just pointing out that Spoelstra hasn't changed his gameplan from during the early season slump, and that it was an excellent gameplan all along, just waiting for players to finally execute. Those are two wholly different interpretations. Which is it? I guess you did have to be there.
We weren't there, and as of now, no one's posted the audio of the comments, so who the hell knows. But if this weren't old coach-killing, coach-bumping LeBron, no one's devoting a second thought, let alone entire stories and follow-up stories, to teasing out the layers lurking in his speech patterns. LeBronapalooza is an insatiable monster, column inches fed by story reaches required by a giant news hole planned by a media horde created by a hunger for column inches. Even the most Wonder Bread of postgame quotes can't go by unnoticed, unchallenged.