“We need a (expletive) playmaker,” said the so-called “king”. Do you think that when the Chicago Bulls dropped 5 of 8 games in January of 1993 Michael Jordan took it upon himself to publicly proclaim that the champions of ‘92 needed to revamp their roster if they planned on defending their crown? No. Jordan actually came out recently and praised Russell Westbrook for his loyalty to the Thunder. Subtle shots fired? Most likely. LeBron has been to the last 6 NBA finals, but when was the last time he did it without another 19 ppg scorer on the roster? That would be in 2007 against the Spurs in the only 4-0 NBA finals in the last decade. Unfortunately for basketball fans, LeBron’s recent words cannot better describe what the NBA has come to.
I understand that it’s a business. Players typically care for two things when it comes to signing with a team: winning and money. An athlete’s legacy in every sport is becoming more and more defined by the amount of rings they earned during their playing career. This isn’t to say we don’t look at guys like Allen Iverson and Patrick Ewing as two of the best to ever step on the court, but current players know that when its all said and done, the amount of times they’ve held up that Larry O’Brien trophy will partly define the ultimate “success” of their time in the league.
There is a fine line between a player’s desire to chase a ring and the claims LeBron has made this year. If you’re Anthony Davis in your prime, playing basketball for one of the worst teams in the league, I actually encourage you to blast your upper-management for throwing away some of the best years of your career by not providing you with a supporting cast. However, in Cleveland, this is most definitely not the case. Not only have LeBron and the Cavaliers theoretically walked into the NBA finals the last two years, but they’ve made a handful of acquisitions in the process. The Cavs brought in Kevin Love to complete their big three and acquired playmakers J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert back in January of 2015. They also added arguably the best spot-up three-point shooter in the league in Kyle Korver earlier this month, which was immediately followed by LeBron James claiming that the Cavaliers “still got a couple more things [they] need to do,” which was directed towards the Cavalier’s lack of point-guard depth.
LeBron needs to comprehend that this isn’t his NBA 2K17 franchise and his team can’t just go out and acquire players when they’re on a cold streak. One of the great things about Michael Jordan was that he made the people around him good and brought out the best in his teammates. From an outsider’s perspective, Tyronn Lue and David Griffin are in the running for sock puppet of the year, as it could not be more obvious that the former MVP is the one calling the shots. What LeBron is doing right now is sending a message that their current roster isn’t good enough to compete with the top teams in the league, rather than dissecting the team’s issues and helping lead them in the right direction. You would think with the recent comments from LeBron that the Cavaliers are playing mediocre basketball while barely hanging onto a playoff spot. However, Cleveland is in possession of the best record in the East, they just aren’t playing to their fullest potential.
In no other sport do you see the the best players in the league outright exhibit the lack of belief in themselves to carry a team. One of the most impressive attributes of Tom Brady is his ability to turn no-name receivers into studs. They have been the NFL’s best team for the last decade, despite the fact that they lack big name receivers outside of Randy Moss. I understand it’s a different sport, but the concept is similar because Tom and LeBron are both considered two of the best athletes of this generation. I understand that guys like LeBron and Kevin Durant want to rack up some championships before their playing days are done with, but it’s even more impressive to do it without half of your respective conferences all-star team on your roster.
LeBron started this trend many summers ago when he decided to take his talents to South Beach on one of the most narcissistic free agency decision television specials of all time. Oh, wait. It was the only broadcasted free agency decision ever. If LeBron wants to continue to tarnish his legacy by expressing that he can’t lead a top-tier team into the NBA finals because of a couple missing pieces on the bench, be my guest. Just don’t expect it to go unnoticed. When its all said and done for LeBron James, whether he ends his career with 7 rings or 3, the case for LeBron surpassing Jordan as the best player this league has ever seen continues to get weaker.