LeBron James abruptly exited his postgame press conference last night after ESPN’s Mark Schwarz asked repeatedly about J.R. Smith’s fascinatingly awful play at the end of regulation in Game 1 of the Finals. It’s hard to look appropriately mad in suit shorts.
This was how the exchange went:
Schwarz: There’s still confusion about whether J.R. thought the game was tied or whether he thought you guys were ahead. From where you stood on the court and from talking to him after the play, what’s your reaction to it, what’s your version?
James: What do you mean what’s my version?
Schwarz: Well, did he think that the game was tied or did he think you guys had it salted away?
James: How do I know that?
Schwarz: Or did you discuss it at all with him at the end of the play?
James: No, they asked me if I talked to J.R. about it, I said no already. I knew it was a tie game. We were down one. George Hill went up, he made the first one. We got the offensive rebound. I thought we were all aware of what was going on. That’s my view. I don’t know what J.R. was thinking. I don’t know what you’re trying to ask.
Schwarz: I was just trying to see if you knew exactly what his state of mind was. Did he think you guys had won or was he trying to make a play?
Schwarz: Not sure.
James: What do you mean not sure? No, I don’t know his state of mind.
Schwarz: Did you know if he knew the score?
It’s fine for reporters to be persistent in the service of doing their job, and Schwarz was doing his by pressing the issue, especially because Smith pretty clearly said to James after the play, “I thought we were ahead.”
(For his part, Smith claims he knew the score was tied, though there are plenty of reasons to doubt that.)
But if a reporter’s going to be confrontational, their questions have to be concrete (don’t ask a person about another person’s state of mind). They also have to be precise. Admittedly this is with the benefit of hindsight, but James isn’t lying when he says he didn’t talk to Smith after the botched play. He doesn’t appear to have said anything; Smith says something to him and then they go sit on the bench and don’t speak. A better question would have been: “LeBron, J.R. said something to you after the play at the end of regulation. What did he say? Did he say he thought you were ahead?”
Reporters should be pressing players and coaches on specifics, but if they want answers, they can’t leave any wiggle room. So a pissed-off James wasn’t exactly wrong when he delivered this smarmy remark on his way out.