By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — If we’re being honest with one another, we can admit that LeBron James takes entirely too much grief from the basketball world. Whether it’s his behavior on the court or the words he says off the court, LeBron has taken significantly more flak than anybody else over the past decade-plus.
Part of that just comes with the territory of being the best player in the world. But part of that is because the man just can’t help himself.
The latter part appeared to rear its head on Monday night, after the Lakers lost 110-105 in Memphis. It was a game where LeBron went 8-for-23 from the field and 0-for-4 from 3-point range, and it was a game that more or less ended when LeBron was called for a charge while trailing by four points with 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter. LeBron’s defensive effort was also … questionable throughout the night.
With the loss, the Lakers dropped to 29-31 on the season. They’re three games out of the final playoff spot in the West, with two other teams ahead of them. The reality of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2006 is likely starting to set in on LeBron James. He’s not handling it well.
He’s shown that with some pointed comments about his teammates in recent weeks, and that continued after the loss on Monday. James was asked if the push to make the playoffs could be a distraction to some players on the roster. The superstar gently suggested that anybody who felt that way should go ahead and quit the team.
“At this point, if you are still allowing distractions to affect the way you play, then this is the wrong franchise to be a part of,” LeBron answered. “And you should just come and be like, ‘Listen, I can’t do this.’ Like, seriously, if you’re distracted by playoff pushes, and out of all the stuff that’s been talked about this year … Just come and do your job. We do our job at a high level. That’s not a distraction. That’s what you want. That’s what you want every game, you want to feel like you’re fighting for something.”
To be fair, LeBron was just answering a question. But the comment certainly seemed superfluous, when a simple “no” would have sufficed.
To put the cherry on top of his night, LeBron got home and posted on Instagram about how great he is.
View this post on Instagram
I literally have no words! I guess like @realcoleworld said “Even when the dark out, the sun is shining somewhere”. Throughout it all no matter good or bad appreciate the journey. Thank you to all who continue to take this journey with me. 🙏🏾❤️#thekidfromakron👑 #striveforgreatness🚀 #jamesgang👑
If Frank Rizzo of Jerky Boys fame were available to comment, he’d surely say, “I’m very proud of ya. That’s very nice.”
The stunning lack of self-awareness is nothing new, but it’s the latest in a string of LeBronisms that seemingly can’t be stopped. Perhaps the best case of LeBronning can be found in two separate comments James has made in recent weeks.
LeBron James, Feb. 7, via MassLive:
“There’s nothing I need to get in this league that I don’t already have. Everything else for me is just like icing on the cake. I love the process of everything I go through to be able to compete every single night and put teams in position to compete for championships. But there’s nothing I’m chasing or feel like I need to end my career on.”
LeBron James, Feb. 23, after a loss to the Pelicans, via ESPN:
“The last few years, everyone’s so accustomed to the losses that I’m just not accustomed to. I’m not accustomed to it. I will never get comfortable with losing. So losing Game 1 to Houston, it feels the same way as losing Game 59 in New Orleans to me. It’s just how I’m built. That’s who I am.”
What a world.
From the Boston viewpoint, it at least puts the Celtics’ struggles into perspective. Sure, Kyrie Irving is kind of all over the place and isn’t the most natural leader and sometimes does interviews with the media where he says headlines from the media can tear apart locker rooms. Yeah, Jaylen Brown’s development is maybe hiccuping a bit. Perhaps Gordon Hayward is not where everybody would like him to be, maybe “Scary Terry” feels like ancient history for Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris is not smiling as much as he’d like to, and it’s possible that Brad Stevens’ magic touch has been noticeably absent this season. The Celtics may be in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, owners of about a dozen more losses than anybody in the world imagined they would have at this point of the season.
All of that may be true. But as LeBron’s late-career vacation to Los Angeles reminds us … it could be worse.