MIAMI — On second thought, LeBron James won’t ground his pregame dunking routine after all.
After suggesting earlier this week he might shut down his popular dunking session in warm-ups before Miami Heat games, James shifted positions Thursday, claiming he’ll rise above the negative criticism he’s received.
James and his teammates have spent the final minutes of warm-ups upstaging one another with dunks for several weeks. But the league’s three-time MVP said Tuesday that criticism, presumably from fans on social media and some former players, for his unwillingness to compete in the All-Star Weekend dunk contest forced him to reconsider.
But after Thursday’s practice, James said he was committed to the routine and wouldn’t stop anytime soon.
“I don’t do it for anyone besides our team,” James said about his pregame dunks, which have gone viral on the Internet in recent days.
“We came up with something to say, ‘Let’s get warmed up even more.’ We’re happy our fans love it, and we’re going to continue to do it. It’s something we enjoy. It’s something that gets us up for the game.”
The team now streams the pregame dunking routine on its official website, and owner Micky Arison has used his Twitter account to encourage a usually late-arriving home crowd to get to AmericanAirlines Arena early.
“Everyone stop complaining about @KingJames in the dunk contest,” Arison tweeted Wednesday. “If u want to see him dunk come to the @AAarena. & enjoy the show.”
The Heat, who are on a league-best 12-game winning streak, end their three-game homestand Friday against the Memphis Grizzlies, who are riding an eight-game winning streak.
James said he won’t feed into any criticism about his decision to execute acrobatic dunks in warm-ups amid his unwillingness to participate in the actual dunk contest.
“I don’t care — I get criticized for everything,” James said. “That’s a small thing on my agenda, is that I’m getting criticized for what I do in warm-ups. Stop it.”
James suggested he doesn’t need to win an All-Star contest to validate his prowess as one of the league’s best dunkers. He said he doesn’t spend too much time thinking about his routine before games, and instead just goes with the flow.
“It just happens,” James said. “I don’t need props, capes, cheerleaders and flight attendants to walk out with me. I just do it. It just happens. Like in a game, if you throw a lob, I’ll just figure it out while I’m in the air.”