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LeBron James denies staring down Michael Jordan

By Jonathan Jones and Rick Bonnell
jjones@charlotteobserver.com
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/04/26/22/04/ZoUdj.Em.138.jpeg|436
    David T. Foster III - dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com
    Bobcats owner Michael Jordan at court side at Time Warner Cable Arena. The Charlotte Bobcats played the Miami Heat on Saturday, 04.26.14.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/04/27/01/04/RiTPL.Em.138.jpeg|409
    David T. Foster, III - dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com
    Miami Heat's LeBron James (6) goes up for a dunk as Charlotte Bobcats' Gerald Henderson (9) looks on, in the second half in Game 3 of the 1st round Eastern Conference playoffs series at Time Warner Cable Arena on April 26, 2014. The Heat won, 98-85.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/04/27/01/04/ZoVVF.Em.138.jpeg|500
    David T. Foster, III - dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com
    Miami Heat's LeBron James (6) follows through on a dunk against the Charlotte Bobcats in the second half in Game 3 of the 1st round Eastern Conference playoffs series at Time Warner Cable Arena on April 26, 2014. The Heat won, 98-85.

The LeBron-or-MJ debate got a new highlight Saturday night.

The Miami Heat superstar and arguably the best active basketball player appeared to stare down Bobcats owner Michael Jordan, seated at the end of the Charlotte’s bench, before slamming a fast-break dunk on a steal in the third quarter.

James earned the steal after Bobcats forward Josh McRoberts lost the ball, and he sped down the side of the court opposite the Bobcats bench. After picking up his dribble and taking flight, James had his head turned in Jordan’s direction and kept his stare as he ascended toward the basket.

James’ eyes shifted to the rim just before he dunked to make it 68-49 in favor of the defending NBA champions.

After the game, James denied giving the glare to Jordan.

“No, no. Don’t start that. Absolutely not, man. Absolutely not,” James said. “I was able to read McRoberts, get a steal and push the lead back up. I absolutely didn’t look at MJ, for sure.”

James finished with 30 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. He has 89 points in three games this series.

The staredown could be the most replayed moment from this series, which the Heat leads 3-0 going into Monday’s Game 4.

James, a four-time NBA MVP, has two NBA championships and four Finals appearances to his credit in 11 years. Jordan went six-for-six in the NBA Finals in the ’90s with the Bulls.

By the fourth quarter, Jordan had left his seat on the bench.

Strong words for Sterling: James had some of the strongest words from across the league Saturday following controversial racial comments attributed to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

James said there’s “no room for Donald Sterling in our league” after the owner, who has a history of racially insensitive comments and actions, was allegedly recorded telling his girlfriend not to openly associate with African Americans.

TMZ Sports obtained the recording, and the NBA is investigating. Clippers coach Doc Rivers told media his team considered a protest in its next playoff game against the Warriors but ultimately decided against it.

James said he would consider sitting out if he played for the Clippers, and if it’s accurate that the 9 1/2 minutes of statements were made by Sterling, the NBA has to take swift and forceful actions against him.

“As the commissioner of the NBA (Adam Silver) has to make a statement. Be very aggressive with it,” said James before Game 3 of the Bobcats-Heat series, adding that Sterling’s words were “disrespectful and appalling.”

“I believe in Adam,” James said. “They have to do something very quickly.”

Through a team spokesman, Jordan declined comment on Sterling.

By the numbers

15 First-quarter points by Al Jefferson were the most in a quarter by a Bobcats player in the franchise’s playoff history (seven games).

19-6 Run the Heat went on

to close the first half and lead by 12 points.

19,633 Fans in attendance Saturday night, making it the largest crowd to see a Bobcats game in arena history.

12 Points off the bench by Chris “Birdman” Andersen, whom James said should be on the FX show “Sons of Anarchy.”

29 Days since the last time the Bobcats did not have a player with at least 10 rebounds. Jefferson had nine Saturday.

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