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March 29, 2013

NBA making a huge mistake if it allows thuggish defense to stop LeBron

NBA making a huge mistake if it allows thuggish defense to stop LeBron

Kirk Hinrich tackled LeBron James. Taj Gibson stopped a James dunk attempt by horse collaring him.

Two innocent plays in a physical basketball game?

Hardly.

Those were just a few of many lowlights as the Bulls ended Miami’s 27-game winning streak by playing old-school basketball. Tom Thibodeau’s team resorted to the Jordan Rules that Chuck Daly’s Detroit Pistons team utilized in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

The “Bad Boys” couldn’t beat him fairly so they tried to maim Michael Jordan with dangerous hard fouls by the likes of Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn, Dennis Rodman and Isiah Thomas.

Critics assailed James as a whiner for complaining about the Bulls and the referees after Wednesday’s 101-97 loss, which ended Miami’s run at the NBA’s longest win streak (33 by the 1971-72 Lakers).

I applaud him for standing up to thuggish play.

Basketball is a sport where supreme athleticism and skill should rule. Why punish James for being bigger, faster, stronger, more fit and more skilled than the opposition? Let his once-in-a-generation talents shine through. It’s up to the opposition to figure out a way, within the rules, to stop him.

Do it with nose-to-nose defense, aggressive double teams, confusing zones, long-limbed swingmen, waves of capable back-ups, psychological warfare, shotblocking big men and a championship mindset. Wear him down by making him fight through picks and chase a relentless offensive threat.

This is LeBron Law and this anarchy is wrong just like the Jordan Rules were wrong. Of course, if the league doesn’t check it, it will spread like wildfire because it works.

Don’t give him any special treatment other than what any other star NBA player receives.

Any human — and despite what we saw in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals last spring against the Celtics, the 6-8, 265-pound James is still human — will be slowed when he rightly fears being injured on every play. An otherworldly talent like King James is being unfairly stifled by mediocrity run amok.

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