LeBron: Leaving floor early in loss wasn't quitting

Updated: November 10, 2006, 7:02 PM ET
Associated Press

CLEVELAND -- Every dribble, every dunk and every decision he makes is dissected. Some more so than others.

LeBron James
James

LeBron James understands that. He just doesn't get why some are saying he quit on the Cleveland Cavaliers.

James was widely criticized on sports talk radio and by TV pundits for leaving the floor in the final seconds Tuesday night in a 104-95 overtime loss to Atlanta. After missing a 3-pointer with 15 seconds left, he began walking off the floor toward Cleveland's locker room while the Hawks dribbled out the clock.

James stopped near the baseline by Cleveland's bench and watched until the final horn sounded.

He was first condemned by Atlanta's radio team and their call was picked up by some national broadcast outlets Wednesday. Later, James was being compared to wide receiver Randy Moss, who left the field before a game was over for Minnesota.

James, who has been under a public microscope since he was 16, doesn't think he did anything unusual.

"It's not like I walked off the court and came to the locker room while there was still time left on the clock," he said before the Cavs bounced back to rout the Bulls 113-94 on Thursday. "I stood on the court the whole time, until the buzzer's end, I even said something to [Hawks guard] Joe Johnson on his way out.

"It was kind of frustrating for us to lose that game, but as far as quitting on my team or anything like that, it's crazy. If we would have won the game, it would have never been mentioned. Say if we was winning the game and I did the same thing. Would it have been mentioned? I don't think so."

James didn't seem surprised that it was incorrectly reported that he left the floor completely.

"It was reported I was in Texas somewhere and I was at home," he said. "It was reported I was in Miami and I was home."

Cavaliers coach Mike Brown didn't know about the flap about James' late-game stroll until he was told by his son that it was being discussed on TV. Brown said he and James have discussed the uproar.

"We both understand there is a right way to do things," Brown said. "This business is the perception business and the right way to do it is to finish the game out on the court. It won't happen again."

James' walk wasn't even noticed by the Cavaliers, who defended their teammate and said he isn't the only one to leave the floor early.

"It's no big deal," forward Drew Gooden said. "LeBron is under such a microscope that every little thing he does gets noticed. I don't care what anybody says, at some point I'm sure Michael Jordan and Larry Bird walked off the floor with 13 seconds left."

Bulls coach Scott Skiles isn't shocked that James' move got so much hype.

"I'm not real surprised by anything the media gives attention to these days," Skiles said. "Every little things gets scrutinized ridiculously."

Skiles always played to the final horn and knows that anything is possible when there is still time left.

"I've seen Reggie Miller score eight points in nine seconds, so it has happened," he said.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press