James' wardrobe adjustment — briefly lowering his compression pants in the moments before his Cleveland Cavaliers took on the Golden State Warriors Thursday — was another example of television not moving fast enough to stop a moment best left off the air.
The moment flashed by so quickly, with James' body partially obscured by an onscreen graphic, that many viewers probably missed it in real time.
"You needed to have a really good DVR and a microscope, I think," said Tim Winter, president of the Parents Television Council. His watchdog group frequently encourages its members to file complaints to the federal government for violations of indecency standards but in this case he advised followers to stand down, calling it "much ado about nothing."
The Federal Communications Commission would not comment Friday on whether anyone had formally complained about James' unexpected exposure.
Dating back to Janet Jackson's exposed breast on a Super Bowl halftime show and even before, directors of sports and entertainment events have long been on guard to stop such moments from slipping through. Often, telecast of live events are delayed several seconds to enable someone backstage to press a button to stop offensive language.
Success is mixed at best: A week earlier, bilingual jockey Victor Espinoza could be heard offering swear words in English and Spanish after guiding American Pharoah over the finish line for the Triple Crown.
A director is usually backstage watching several different camera feeds and ordering which one goes out over the air, and will head to another shot if something untoward is shown. Generally, there's not enough time to edit out something that happens so quickly, said Ross Greenburg, an independent sports producer and former president of HBO Sports.
"Something like this is very rare, is next to impossible to prevent, and to my knowledge there is no video delay in effect that could prevent it from going out live," said Marc Payton, a recently retired sports television director who was in charge for national baseball, football and boxing telecasts.
Don't just blame TV, Greenburg said. A star like James in a big event like the NBA Finals should be aware that a camera is going to be trained on him from the moment he walks out of the locker room.
ABC Sports would not comment on James' extra exposure, and the Cavaliers star was travelling West on Friday.
Twitter was alight with followers only too happy to fill in the breach, though.
Associated Press writers Tom Withers, Oskar Garcia and Mesfin Fekadu contributed to this report.Suggest a correction