LeBron James has been criticised for the way he celebrated at his son's basketball game. Picture: AP

Washington - LeBron James is frequently the subject of intense debate, but it's often about whether he is the greatest basketball player of all time.

Recently, though, vehement takes regarding the Los Angeles Lakers star have centered on a much different question: Is he being a good parent?

James made headlines for his behavior at his oldest son's games during an AAU tournament in Las Vegas, where he joined the youth league team's pregame layup line to throw down monstrous dunks and celebrated with exuberance. At one point, James lost a shoe while running on to the court in joy over a dunk by one of his son's teammates.

Some have seen these displays as reflective of admirable support for his son, 14-year-old LeBron "Bronny" James Jr, and the other children on the team. Others have criticised the four-time NBA MVP for what they see as attention-seeking tactics at the expense of his child, and for going overboard in a way that would appear inappropriate for an average parent.

Among James' sharpest critics - and not for the first time - has been Jason Whitlock, host of Fox Sports 1′s "Speak for Yourself". Describing James's "antics" as "inappropriate". he created a stir by saying of the viral clips from the AAU tournament, "Fame is a drug more potent and dangerous than cocaine. LeBron is a fame and social media junkie."

"In his mind, LeBron is making fatherhood cool and fun again. I disagree," Whitlock said. "LeBron is making a spectacle of himself, a circus of his son's early playing days and using his son's game as yet another platform to build the LeBron social-media brand."

Whitlock recalled a 2008 playoff game during which James's mother, seated courtside, took exception to a hard foul. Whitlock noted that he defended James at the time for being shown on TV telling his mother to "sit yo' a-- down".

"Gloria James needed to control herself and conduct herself with a dignity that placed her son in the proper light," Whitlock said. "That's what parents, no matter how famous, should do. They should not allow their thirst for fame to distract from or exaggerate their child's performance.

"LeBron needs to follow advice he gave his mom: Sit yo' a-- down."

Among those who stood up for James was the Celtics' Jayson Tatum, who responded to another media figure, Kevin Clancy of "Barstool Sports".

"I gotta be honest if my son is ever throwing down alley oops I will probably lose my f------ mind," Clancy had tweeted, sharing the clip of James' shoe-losing celebration. "But this is absolutely ridiculous. This is like, bizarre childlike behavior."

Tatum retweeted Clancy and wrote: "With so many fathers not supporting there [sic] kids we get upset because he is genuinely happy for his son! I can't wait till my son get older and I get to support him with whatever he wants to do!"

The Washington Post