Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
According to Henry Abbott of TrueHoop, a source who knows LeBron well called his “oppressive, overwhelming and anti-social” competitiveness the “most under-told story in sports.”
Abbott noted that James “struggles to be around the normally motivated, gets impatient with those who don’t work as hard as he does and has little tolerance for mistakes.”
As part of his analysis, Abbott provided several examples of times when James’ competitiveness and expectation of perfection created issues.
Most notably, LeBron was beside himself with anger and disbelief late in regulation of Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors when teammate JR Smith seemingly thought the Cleveland Cavaliers had a lead.
Rather than shooting or passing the ball, he held on to it for too long, which caused the game to go to overtime and James to turn into an all-time meme because of his reaction.
The Cavs lost that game 124-114 in overtime, and James punched a whiteboard after the game out of anger. James said he broke his hand and played the rest of the series with the injury. The Cavs got swept.
Abbott also wrote that the lack of young stars developing under James and the fact that many of the rosters put around him have been subpar are a result of his being tough to work with.
Kyrie Irving was specifically mentioned, as James essentially seized control of the Cleveland offense from Kyrie after he signed in 2014. While LeBron and Irving won a title together, Kyrie asked for and received a trade before the 2017-18 season.
Abbott even looked into the rationale behind James’ wearing a mouthguard and noted that a source close to LeBron told him that he wears one to stop himself from yelling at teammates, referees and others in an effort to avoid technical fouls.
While it is true that not everyone responds positively to LeBron’s fire and desire to win, there is no denying his success as a three-time NBA champion, three-time NBA Finals MVP and four-time NBA MVP.
In many ways, James’ demeanor is reminiscent of that of Michael Jordan, who won six championships with the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s. MJ recently received some criticism for the way he treated teammates, as shown in ESPN’s Last Dance docuseries, but he may not have won six championships if not for that approach.
Abbott did add that LeBron’s current Lakers teammate Anthony Davis may be “softening” him since he has a “special affection” for the big man.
The pairing has worked wonders so far, as the Lakers are first in the Western Conference at 49-14 and stand a strong chance at clinching the No. 1 seed shortly after the 2019-20 season restarts.
With LeBron’s determination and Davis’ talent, the Lakers may well be the favorites to win the 2020 NBA championship.