You always are supposed to marvel at LeBron James: the long, languid strides, the explosive jumping and showmanship, the commercials.
Maybe you can believe those TV commercials in which James makes the full-court jumpers after he made a big rainbow three-pointer to tie the Cleveland Cavaliers' game against the Bulls at the end of regulation.
Of course, there also are the now-regular exploits of the Amazing Ben, the new superhero who can launch shots over the biggest, widest, tallest men in the world with seeming ease. Watch him scale big centers in a single bound.
With all the flamboyant play in the Bulls' 102-90 overtime victory over the Cavs though, the most fun was watching Andres Nocioni treat James like he was … well … just another guy.
Even though the Argentine doesn't speak English well, you figure he has heard of James and probably has seen his picture on TV.
But Nocioni's lack of respect was impressive.
Perhaps the best moment came late in the fourth quarter as the Cavs strained to get back in a game the Bulls pretty much controlled up to that point. James turned to referee Jess Kersey and showed him the string on the front of his basketball pants almost coming down the back.
Yes, Nocioni seemed literally to be in James' shorts.
"He was doing that all night," James said. "There's no humor in [it]."
Yes, James did hit that tying shot, but he had missed 3 of 4 free throws just before and soon would be putting up his third air ball of the game.
No doubt, Nocioni's play had a lot to do with that.
The Cavs had more talent on the floor, at least according to the press clippings and experts. They had James, All-Star center Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Drew Gooden, who led all scorers with 27.
Nocioni played like he didn't know any of them. Even the Bulls fluent in English played like that. They always seem to.
No one would suggest James was afraid or cowered, but Nocioni seemed to make him back off to start the game with one field goal and three points in the first quarter.
Man, Sammy is really turning into a Bron Bron Hata! First the preps to pro article, now this dis."He does a lot of grabbing and holding and scratching, everything to try to irritate me," James said. "He did a good job fighting me and getting help from his back line. And you have to give someone credit for that. It can get frustrating when you don't get some calls you deserve, so you have to keep fighting."
Nocioni did. Lacking the speed and quickness of James, he nevertheless picked up James beyond the three-point line. He kept a hand in his face, crouching like a cat and leaping out at James with an annoying hand in his face. Wherever James went—over screens, into the post—Nocioni was there, pushing and denying position, forcing James out for jump shot after jump shot, where he is least dangerous.
It was a joy to watch.