By Travis Politakis
Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James is the most iconic player of this generation and arguably one of the greatest players to ever play the sport of basketball. In his 16 year career with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, and Los Angeles Laker, James has compiled four league MVP’s, three NBA Championships, three NBA Finals MVPs, an NBA Rookie of the Year, a nineteen time All-Star, and has appeared in nine NBA Finals. LeBron James is one of the most influential players of this generation.
James is also extremely influential in his actions off of the court. James founded the LeBron James Family Foundation and has opened the I Promise Elementary School, which is a school for underprivileged kids which promises tuition for those who graduate. James is also a fantastic father of three children, and husband to Savannah James.
This year however, has people questioning James and his leadership. Over this past summer, LeBron James decided to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers and join the Los Angeles Lakers and team up with young stars Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma, with aspirations to put Los Angeles basketball back on the map. The Lakers have gotten off to an underwhelming start. The Lakers currently sit at the eleventh seed in the Western Conference with a record of 29-31. The Lakers have lost 4 of their last five to last place teams such as the Memphis Grizzlies and the Atlanta Hawks.
After their loss to the Grizzlies, James questioned his teammates focus saying “At this point if you are still allowing distractions to affect how the way you play, then this is the wrong franchise to be a part of and you should just come and be like, ‘Listen, I don’t think this is for me.”
Just recently, the trade deadline swept through the NBA and a number of teams made moves. The Lakers were not one of them, despite the reports that they would be acquiring All-Star center Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans. Now, why is this important? LeBron made it public that he wanted to do whatever it takes to get Davis on the Lakers. The Lakers offered up their entire young core consisting of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, and Brandon Ingram, in hopes to land a deal to acquire Davis. No deal was made, and everyone remained on the roster. LeBron James had the locker room divided because nobody knew if they were safe from being traded or not.
James also owns a sports agency called Klutch Sports which is headed by his childhood friend Rich Paul. Rich Paul represents a number of NBA players, with one of them beng Anthony Davis. Rich Paul told the New Orleans Pelicans that Davis wanted to be traded, and many think Paul was doing this in order to benefit James. LeBron James and the Lakers have also been linked to illegally talking to players such as Ben Simmons and trying to influence them to join their team, which is called tampering and would result in a hefty fine according to NBA rules. LeBron James is trying to run the league and control things he should not be allowed to control.
NBA executives are calling out LeBron James and his leadership. One anonymous NBA executive told Bleacher Report, “He killed the Lakers chemistry, he shouldn’t have been so public about it. Even during the All-Star draft, he laughed about wanting Davis to be his teammate. “
During the trade deadline, the Lakers got absolutely blown out by the Indiana Pacers 136-94. In the Final minutes of the game, James was seen sitting at the end of the bench, distanced from his teammates not talking, encouraging, or teaching them. For someone who is supposed to be looked at as a great leader, that is not a good look at all. James has single-handedly destroyed the Lakers.
LeBron James has been questioning his teammates focus and passion, but maybe he is the one that needs a reality check. James needs to perform better on the court also. In the Lakers last game against the Grizzlies, James shot 8-23 going 0-4 from the three point line. Also in the game, James was showing absolutely lackluster effort on defense and pushing it off on his teammates. What was even more surprising was what took place after the game. During the game, James became the only player to be in the top ten all time in points and assists, and posted a picture on Instagram gloating about it. Meanwhile, Lakers forward Brandon Ingram had a career game scoring 32 points. After the game Ingram was asked about how he felt about his performance and said, “I think my game doesn’t matter if we don’t get the wins.” If LeBron was a true leader and truly cared about winning, he would not have gone right to instagram to post his record.
On the show First Take, famous sports analyst Stephen A Smith talked about how much of a problem LeBron James is causing within the Lakers organization saying, “The biggest problem with the Los Angeles Lakers is LeBron James. LeBron James is looking less than what we would anticipate LeBron James to be.”
If LeBron James wants to be labeled among the greatest players of all time with Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, he needs to be the great leader that many have seen him be in his career. Jordan and Bryant never complained about players around them. They simply worked with what they had and found a way to get the job done, which is why they are labeled as the greatest to ever play.
LeBron James has not missed the playoffs since 2004. In an interview with ESPN after the All-Star break, James said he has “activated playoff mode.” If James truly cared about winning, he would play with his so called “playoff mode mentality” every game. The Lakers currently sit three games out of the last playoff spot with only 22 games left. If LeBron wants to truly be great, he needs to be a better teammate and rally his team to the playoffs and just play basketball. LeBron James needs to stop trying to interfere with what goes on beyond his control.
Travis Politakis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org