Look, I’m not one to gloat and say I told you so.
On the most recent episode of the “Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective” podcast, titled “Player Haters’ Ball,” host Brian Windhorst was speaking to renowned ESPN sports reporter Jackie MacMullan about various topics in the NBA when an interesting bit about the Los Angeles Lakers came up.
Namely, that Lakers superstar LeBron James’ “camp,” or his tight-knit inner circle, is none too fond of Lakers head coach Luke Walton and wants the third-year coach gone.
“It’s clear to me, and probably to you, Brian, that LeBron’s camp would prefer a coaching change. They’re not too subtle about that,” MacMullan told Windhorst.
To clarify, MacMullan made sure to point out that it was not James himself trying to get rid of Walton.
“Not LeBron, but all the people around LeBron,” he said. “There’s plenty of them and they’ve made it known. I don’t think this is a shock, is it?”
It’s not a shock, but let’s also be real here. There are few, if any, athletes in recent memory more self-obsessed with their “brand” than James. Part of the image that LeBron has cultivated is due in no small part to the close group of childhood friends he constantly surrounds himself with.
Are you telling me that LeBron James, one of the most influential and well-known athletes since Michael Jordan, didn’t know that someone within his circle was going to leak the disdain his “camp” had for Walton? If you think James had nothing to do with this media leak, the evidence certainly builds a compelling case.
“There’s a lot of tension in (the Lakers headquarters),” MacMullan added.
He also noted that despite Lakers owner and president Jeanie Buss’ vote of confidence in Walton, she hired Lakers legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson as the team’s president of basketball operations to have the ultimate say in such matters.
It would make sense that Johnson and Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka would want to install their own head coach. Walton was the selection of the previous Lakers regime before Johnson and Pelinka arrived together.
So if there’s a glimmer of hope that the Lakers front office is amenable to a coaching change and the Lakers have lost 10 of their last 15 games while James has an injured groin, there’s no better time to get your coach on the team.
If this were virtually any other NBA superstar, I might be compelled to give the player the benefit of the doubt and consider this ordeal an honest and unexpected leak from their personal camp.
James deserves no such benefit. His issues with coaches are well-chronicled.
LeBron would never listen to former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Mike Brown, according to what James’ ex-teammate and NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal said in 2011 per NBC Sports.
NBA coaching legend Pat Riley told ESPN that James infamously tried to get Riley to replace then-first-year head coach Erik Spoelstra during James’ first season with the Miami Heat.
When James returned to Cleveland for the 2014-2015 season, head coach David Blatt wasn’t even given a real chance to prove himself before he was unceremoniously fired and replaced by close LeBron ally Tyronn Lue. Notice how, without James in the fold, Lue was promptly let go by Cleveland despite helping the team win the city’s first championship in decades?
This isn’t some isolated incident of James undermining and trying to be a coach-killer.
To be clear, I’m not trying to diminish James the player. His statistics, championships and accolades speak for themselves. I would disagree with them, but I can at least see where his fans come from when they call him the greatest of all time.
But let’s stop pretending like the guy isn’t at least mildly conniving and has a history of undermining his coaches. Even it truly were just his “camp” that wants Walton gone, how can anyone give James the benefit of the doubt given his recent history?
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