This season has been a tough one for LeBron. Just after “bringing a trophy to Cleveland”, the Golden State Warriors stole the spotlight by signing Kevin Durant. Ever since then, the Warriors have been treated like the de facto NBA champs. Sure, people expect the Cavs to make it out of the East but no one thinks they’re going to win. FiveThirtyEight currently gives the Cavs an 8% chance to take the title, just 5% better than the Boston Celtics. James is quietly putting up MVP-caliber numbers while all the focus is on Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Isaiah Thomas. On top of all that, the Cleveland Cavaliers are coming out of a painful January, going just 7-8 on the month. Perhaps this frustration is what led to LeBron’s most recent antics.
This week, Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reported that LeBron James is pressuring the Cavaliers front office to trade Kevin Love in exchange for Carmelo Anthony. Here’s what the King had to say about that:
“It’s trash. And the guy who wrote it is trash, too, for writing that, especially during the game like that.”
“I’m not going to let him disrespect my legacy like that. I’m not the one who threw somebody through a window. I never spit on a kid. I never had unpaid debt in Las Vegas. I never said, ‘I’m not a role model.’ I never showed up to All-Star Weekend on Sunday because I was in Vegas all weekend partying… He’s a hater. What makes what he says credible? Because he’s on TV?”
One week and two personal attacks at two different members of the media. Both completely out of line. LeBron James has no business calling Frank Isola trash. Frank Isola’s job is to find and report interesting stories for the fans to consume. Does the story reflect poorly LeBron? Absolutely. However, it’s not out of character for him to pressure his front office into making a trade just for him. LeBron wanted Kevin Love. They got him. LeBron wanted Shumpert and J.R. They got them. LeBron wanted Kyle Korver. They got him. Personally, I’d be more surprised if something like what Isola reported didn’t go down.
And then there is Charles Barkley. Barkley’s comments obviously got to LeBron: the King took it from basketball criticism to making fun of Barkley’s gambling addiction in one breath. Also, to say that Charles Barkley has no credibility to comment on LeBron James is absurd. Charles Barkley, as ridiculous as he is, is an NBA Hall of Famer and one of the greatest power forwards of all time. On top of that, yes, Charles Barkley being on TV does give him credibility! It is literally his job to comment on NBA players. Hundreds of thousands of fans turn on TNT every night to hear Charles’ takes on LeBron. Charles Barkley has more than enough credibility to comment on LeBron James.
It would be one thing if these recent outbursts were out of character for LeBron. But they’re not. LeBron has always been whiny. In January, during the Cavs’ rough stretch, LeBron James took to twitter to subtweet his team’s front office questioning their desire to win a championship. Why does the King question his organization’s will to win? Because they won’t sign any players to support him.
Besides this being flat out untrue (see fourth paragraph), the Cleveland Cavaliers have the single largest payroll in NBA history and are expected to pay a league-high $33.5 million in luxury tax this season. No, the Cavs are not as good as the Golden State Warriors. At the same time, it’s not like there is a line of Kevin Durant’s waiting to go to Cleveland. The Cavaliers have done everything they can to provide LeBron with a championship team.
This is who LeBron has been. An entitled, self-absorbed brat. LeBron makes demands and then takes personal offense when people around him don’t disrupt everything to meet his every need. It’s no secret that it’s a pain to coach LeBron. LeBron sees himself as above the coach. LeBron has such blatant disrespect for his higher ups he physically pushed David Blatt.
LeBron James has always teetered on the line between greatest player of all time and angsty teenager. At this point, I think comparing Michael Jordan and LeBron James’ tangible accomplishments is a wash. I can hear both sides. What tips the scale is LeBron’s personality.
To be the greatest player of all time, you have to be greater than basketball. Your personality has to truly embody the GOAT. I don’t see LeBron as that figure. To me, a GOAT does not bring up someone’s gambling addiction in response to criticism. A GOAT also doesn’t call a member of the media trash because of a story he doesn’t like. He also doesn’t push his coaches, passive aggressively subtweet his management, or steal the reigns from his management.
A day might come when LeBron’s resume is so great there’s no question of whether or not he’s the greatest. But right now LeBron’s character is what’s holding him back. What LeBron does on the court is incredible. But it’s moments like these past two weeks that muddy his legacy as a basketball player.