New team, same LeBron James. But not the LeBron you're thinking of.
Yes, the prince of Akron has made a career in being the leading force of a team that seemingly guarantees success and a spot in the NBA Finals due to his clear greatness.
However, while his talents have traveled from the cold and dreary of Cleveland, to the warm and sunny of Miami, to back to Cleveland, and now the bright lights of Hollywood -- LeBron's inability to see his own flaws has come along as well.
It's a constant formula with LeBron. Go to a team, figure out its weaknesses, learn how to overcome them -- and use them as a potential scapegoat when necessary.
This has been the case all season long as LeBron, who willingly chose to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers after spending the last four seasons back with the Cleveland Cavaliers, as he found a way to stir up drama by again seeking to oust a coach and use the youth of his teammates as reasons for poor play at times.
This again was made apparent after comments he made after a loss to a New Orleans Pelicans team without their superstar in Anthony Davis. While speaking with the media during his post game interview, LeBron was questioned about the team's struggles with just over 20 games remaining in the season.
He then questioned his team's lack of urgency and the need to be "comfortable being uncomfortable."
"It kind of looks that way at times," James said referring to his team's overall lack of awareness with what's at stake with making the playoffs. "That sometimes we're afraid to be uncomfortable and kind of get out of our comfort zone and kind of, you know, have that sense of urgency from the jump, and not be afraid to actually go out and fail to succeed."
What he failed to mention, as it appeared his message was to the many players on his roster who are young and ringless -- there's a host of veterans who have been through the fire just as many times as him and understand the grind it takes to achieve the ultimate goal of a championship.
He then went on to infer that he's the only one who is not comfortable with losing due to the organization's past inefficiencies. The truth is, no athlete ever gets comfortable with losing -- if they consider themselves a competitor. These comments that LeBron makes, and will likely continue to make doesn't speak to his leadership, but a pattern that only builds resentment.
The comment that sent social media ablaze however, was his assertion that basketball needs to be the top priority for some of his teammates -- and whether that was lacking or not.
LeBron, who is known for sending cryptic messages through the media as well as through his social media accounts, appeared to do so yet again when he unleashed this very scathing open thought:
“It’s how you approach the game every day,” LeBron said. “It’s how you think the game every day. It’s how you play the game. It’s how you prepare for the game, and that’s not even like, when you get to the arena. That’s like way before that."
“Basketball — is that the most important thing? Why we doing this? Is this the most important thing in your life at this time? . . . If you feel you gave it all [in that game], then you have nothing to look back on. You can go on and do other things. But if you feel like you’re not giving as much as you can, then you can’t focus on anything else.”
Let's tackle this one by one shall we?
First, no one, not even me will ever question LeBron's commitment to the game in terms of preparation. He is by far one of the most well-conditioned athletes of all time, and his impeccable durability is a testament to the reported estimated $2 million he spends to keep his body right for the grueling NBA season.
The young players on his roster could most definitely learn a thing or two from him in this area alone. I witnessed him in action as I recently covered a game of his against the Charlotte Hornets where over an hour before tip-off, he was in a full sweat and continued to do extra work in the locker room while others sat quietly in their lockers.
As for the next set of quotes, this is where I go in -- and I mean all the way in.
How dare you? To question a teammate's preparation is one thing, but their commitment and dedication to a sport none of them are as talented and gifted at as he is was completely uncalled for and disingenuous.
For no other reason than the fact that he (LeBron) has multiple off court ventures that presumably appear much more important than basketball right now (or at least this season, which appears lost). Did he forget that just a day before, he tweeted out a promo for his upcoming film, "Space Jam 2"?
Not only that, his countless appearances and promotion of his show, "The Shop" along with the documentary "Shut up and Dribble", which all premiered (and still ongoing) during this same NBA season.
Now, I'm all for off court exploits and ventures. As LeBron so eloquently stated in the past, he is more than just an athlete. He has a voice, and obviously has visions that stem far beyond the court that many could never fathom.
But to have the nerve, the unmitigated gall to question whether basketball is the "most important thing in your life" when all signs point that this season is of zero consequence to him is wrong.
How about questioning whether LeBron himself has mailed it in? He stated in an episode of ESPN's "More than an Athlete" as much when talking about his win over the 73-9 Golden State Warriors.
“I was super, super ecstatic to win one for Cleveland because of the 52-year drought. … The first wave of emotion was when everyone saw me crying, like, that was all for 52 years of everything in sports that’s gone on in Cleveland. And then after I stopped I was like — that one right there made you the greatest player of all time.”
An excellent accomplishment and feat, and one to be celebrated for years to come. However, is that it? Is there not more to play for? Or, did LeBron truly only come to LA to further his business exploits instead of chasing the "ghosts" of Michael Jordan he mentioned just the year prior?
And last, but most certainly not least was the final part of the quote -- and possibly the most damning. He questioned his teammates' effort.
As a coach for eight years, one thing I've learned from other coaches, and have mentioned to players myself is, you can control your attitude and your effort. Having one's effort questioned is a slap in the face, especially when those words are coming from an individual whose effort has been questioned during the regular season for at least the past five seasons now.
LeBron James is great, no he's all-time great. It may be decades before we see another player like him and when he is gone, the game will miss him immensely.
However, his legacy will always be in question as to why he could not win more championships than he lost. Why is it the person's throne you aspire to overthrow not have this issue?
As great of a person LeBron appears to be -- and likeable, too -- why is it so hard for him to see the flaws in himself that he sees in so many others?
LeBron, you're great, but it's time to look at the man in the mirror.