LeBron socks it to critics

 LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers dunks the ball against the Utah Jazz on December 4, 2019 at vivint.SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. Copyright 2019 NBAE Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images/AFP

LOS ANGELES, United States (AFP) — Los Angeles superstar LeBron James Thursday defended the late-game celebrations that saw him hop off the sidelines in his stockinged feet to cheer as his teammates wrapped up an NBA victory in Utah.

James, his work over for the night after he scored 20 points in just under 30 minutes on court, had autographed his shoes and handed them over to two young fans as the game wound down.

But he couldn’t contain his excitement as teammate Kyle Kuzma came up with two blocked shots in the waning minutes, jumping up and down on the baseline in his socks and waving a towel.

That provoked the ire of television commentators on the Jazz broadcast, who called his actions disrespectful.

“Imagine doing your job at the highest level to where you’re not needed anymore, giving your shoes to a Lil girl and boy who you inspire and hoped you made proud that night, then cheering on your teammates cause you to love seeing them succeed more than yourself only to be criticized while doing it,” James said Thursday in an Instagram post.

“People it’s the world we live in and you can’t let it ever stop you from your purpose in life. Negativity, bad energy, hate, envy, etc will try to bring you down throughout your journey and it’s up to you on how you handle it.”

Not that James can’t accept criticism — or criticize himself.

After the game, he owned up to a “malfunction” after seeing a replay of an egregious traveling violation that wasn’t called by game officials.

James dribbled past midcourt, then palmed the ball for three-and-a-half steps — the infraction escaping the attention of the referees despite the wild signaling of Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic.

“It was the worst thing, probably one of the worst things I’ve ever done in my career,” James told reporters after the game, which the Lakers won 121-96.

“I didn’t realize I did it until halftime. One of my coaches showed me,” added James, who said he’d been distracted by an on-court collision between Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Donovan Mitchell.

“I really had a malfunction,” he said.

© Agence France-Presse