LeBron James' comments on Thursday were alarming but refreshing

Such commentary is a necessary evil at a time like this

Jake Chapman
June 08, 2018 - 1:26 pm

© Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The Cavs’ slow march to the basketball gallows began Thursday afternoon at the Q, barely half a day removed from their Game 3 defeat at the hands of the Golden State Warriors.

With their emotions likely still raw and a seemingly impossible basketball task at hand, the Cavs dealt in platitudes and clichés about “taking it one game at a time” and “digging out of holes” (which still makes no sense to me, like, how do you dig upward?) and “leaving it all on the floor” and all that corny stuff.

Such banal commentary is a necessary evil at a time like this.

Your average Cavalier fan may privately believe his team has no shot, but he sure as hell doesn’t want to hear a player admit it. Fans would rather hear a player mumble about their backs being against the wall than hear one acknowledge his team has no chance.

But wouldn’t it be refreshing if, just once, a star athlete would say exactly what he or she thinks? Something like this?

“Nobody is beating the Warriors. They’re way better at basketball than we are. I expect to lose Friday so I am booking a flight to the Bahamas as soon as I’m done talking to you all.”

I would love it.

Which is why I love what LeBron did Thursday.

He didn’t throw his teammates under the bus; more like wondered aloud if his teammates slept on benches at bus stations. He spoke glowingly about nearly the entire Warriors roster, yet mentioned not a single one of his own teammates. Our Daryl Ruiter documented all of his comments here, but the gist is this: ‘We had playmakers earlier in the season, then traded them away,’ ‘I wish we still had DWade,’ ‘the Cavs are much less talented than the Warriors,’ and ‘not every player wants to compete for a championship.’ That last one was at least vague.  

James didn’t go so far as to forfeit Game 4, but he certainly made clear that he doesn’t see his current crop of teammates as capable of competing with Golden State. My initial reaction was a cringe. I felt like even if LeBron felt that way, does he really need to announce it to the world? Then I thought about it more.

Yes. Announce it to the world. You’re freaking LeBron James. Tell us whatever you want.

If he does move on to another team this summer, I think we’ll all understand as long he’s honest and forthright about his goals. If LeBron’s number one priority is chasing rings and he feels another franchise gives him the best shot at that, and he admits to all of that on the way out of town? Folks will understand. It’ll hurt, but they’ll understand. But if he leaves and his public rationale feels disingenuous, it’ll be a Decision-like PR disaster. You’re the Chosen 1. You don’t need to spit on me and tell me it’s raining. It’s honestly okay if you just spit on me.

James has been programmed from such a young age to handle his media responsibilities, to craft his image, to avoid drama and headlines, and to be graceful and engaging in those settings. He’ll likely never get enough credit for how smart and how perceptive he is. But at this point in his career, with that burning notion that his absolute performance apex is either now or very soon, he has the latitude to say whatever the hell is on his mind. It’s probably the best strategy in fact. Frankly, he’s too old and too great to give us BS.

When the King speaks, we all listen. But when he speaks like he did Thursday, plates shift under our feet. Get ready for a wild summer.