LOS ANGELES -- LeBron James knows he was wrong to snub the Magic and the media, and David Stern decided the NBA was wrong when it didn't punish the MVP for it.
So the commissioner changed his mind and fined James $25,000 for skipping the postgame news conference after Cleveland lost to Orlando in the Eastern Conference finals.
Stern said Thursday night that he spoke with the Cavaliers star on Wednesday, a day after James had surgery to remove a benign growth near his jaw, and that James admitted he was wrong to not congratulate Orlando's players and coaches after the loss.
"He asked that I express to the media, the Magic and the fans his apology, and particularly the young fans, because he knows he has a responsibility to all of our fans, and that sportsmanship is appropriate whether you win or whether you lose," Stern said near the start of his annual NBA finals press conference.
"He understands why it was necessary for me to fine him $25,000 for missing the media availability."
The league first said James wouldn't be penalized, citing his usual cooperation with the press. Stern said he reconsidered after thinking about it more.
"Certainly as it related to the media, we have a rule, you guys know that we've had some interesting issues over the years with some of our coaches and the like, and it was inappropriate for me to give someone a pass here," Stern said.
" Stern downplayed a congressman's remarks about the league's age limitation rule, noting that there's also an age limit to be elected to Congress.
Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., sent identical letters to Stern and union leader Billy Hunter, asking that they scrap the requirement that players be 19 years old and a year out of high school in the next collective bargaining agreement.
"What the congressman didn't understand, and we'll be happy to share our view with him, this is not about the NCAA, this is not an enforcement of some social program, this is a business decision by the NBA, which is we like to see our players in competition after high school," Stern said.
"I don't know why our founders decided that age 25 was good for Congress, but I guess they thought that was about maturity, and for it's different, it's a kind of basketball maturity."
" Stern said the league's revenues could drop by as much as 10 percent next season, which league president Joel Litvin said would make a "significant impact" on the salary cap for the 2010-11 season, a summer when James could lead a stellar free agent class.
" Stern defended the work of his referees, adding they will eventually be helped by expanded instant replay, and said the technical foul system in which players are suspended a game in the postseason after accumulating seven, is working.
" The commissioner said he believes whoever the next owner of the Bobcats is will see the benefits of keeping the team in Charlotte. He previously hadn't even commented on the news that Bob Johnson said he planned to sell the team after losing millions.
" Stern also said he would name his labor relations committee next week for collective bargaining negotiations with the players' association. The sides plan talks this summer, even though the current agreement doesn't expire for two years.
Though there are predictions of tense negotiations, Stern said there's "a lot at stake and I'm optimistic" a deal can get done in time to avoid a work stoppage.