By Ben Pearl ’18
There was a stereotype that used to follow professional athletes in which athletes were only scrutinized by the media on the court, but not off. The most well known example of this is Michael Jordan, who, while on the court was very flamboyant, he had very little to say off the hardwood. This trend was extinguished in the late nineties by players like Allen Iverson and Shaquille O’Neal, all-stars with huge personalities both on and off the court.
Over the past decade, new names have graced the top of the NBA, none more polarizing than Lebron James. His success has brought along one of the most publicized lifestyles in sports. James is infamously remembered for “The Decision,” in which he had a press conference informing the nation where he would be signing in free agency.
More recently, James is coming off a remarkable championship season and while the Cavaliers seemed destined to repeat their performance in this year’s playoffs, a recent slump has raised numerous questions regarding their potential. After losing seven times in 11 games, James called his team “top-heavy as s—” and that he felt the team was becoming complacent. As a fan of what Lebron has been able to do for the city of Cleveland and the sport of basketball as a whole, it is frustrating to see the four-time Most Valuable Player say something so negative about his team. While it is undisputed that he is the best player on the team, he is supposed to be a constant leader and a figure for younger players across the league to look up to. This outburst has been one of the few blemishes on a pristine resume that includes three world championships, and his comments have not been taken lightly.
“Organizationally, there is absolutely no lack of clarity on what our goal set is. We are here to win championships,” David Griffin, the Cleveland Cavaliers general manager, said. If there is any player, coach or executive in the National Basketball League who does not go to work everyday with the mindset of winning a ring then they are in the wrong line of employment. Griffin has proven this time and time again, as he has conducted significant acquisitions and signings over the past season. He has traded for elite swingman Kyle Korver and signed Tristan Thompson to a near-max contract this past offseason, all to catalyze another championship run. For James to suggest that people within the organization are not striving to get better is completely disrespectful. Additionally, he singled out himself and fellow Cleveland superstar, Kyrie Irving, saying that they are the only two playmakers. This shows a complete disrespect for the other players on the team, which happens to include all-star Kevin Love and dominant big-man Thompson.
What is most disheartening is that James has not apologized for his comments. For most of his career, James has been a major role model for people of all kinds to follow. It would be most responsible for him to recall his comments and acknowledge that he he did was out of line. While he may be the most dominant basketball player in the world, there are still 14 other players on the roster, in addition to the countless coaches and executives who are equally as hard working. As much as he might be frustrated, going to the media is never the answer and you never throw your teammates and coaches under the bus. Moving forward, athletes should realize that the only proven measures of success are maintaining an individual selflessness and following a team goal. James will have to fall back on these keys this season if he wants to defend his title.