Besides being great players, Jordan and Johnson were also great teammates as well due to their leadership. For Johnson, he was considered one of the most unselfish players on his team always looking to create plays on the fast break and get his other teammates involved to help them succeed. For Jordan, he more-so led by example, trying to bring out the best in his teammates by being ultra competitive and beyond abrasive; so much so that he supposedly ruined Kwame Brown as an NBA rookie.
With James, you have the ultimate combination of both Johnson’s and Jordan’s qualities as a leader. You can see the parallels between Johnson and King James pretty clearly by the fact that James is one of the most unselfish players in NBA history with a career average of 7.1 assists and tons of almost-triple doubles. Like Johnson, James makes all of his teammates better.
On the other end of the spectrum, LeBron James is a lot like Michael Jordan in the fact that he expects the absolute best from his teammates in practice, during training camp, and especially when they touch the floor. These lofty expectations have trickled down to the rest of the Cavaliers, who have added tons of new faces through James’ second stint with the team. This is especially shown with JR Smith, who was considered a locker room cancer and a huge problem when he was originally traded to the Cavs. But, Smith instead has become an extremely vital part of the Cavaliers rotation, a beloved teammate, and one of the more popular members of the Cavaliers all due to the fact that James constantly holds Smith accountable.
Compared to Johnson and Jordan, who have not been the most talked about athletes since his high school days with St. Vincent-St. Mary, James has been constantly under the microscope from the moment he touched NBA hardwood. Instead of letting it be a burden, James instead embraces the constant attention and uses it to his advantage to create drama and chaos to help his teams thrive and succeed and this has been extremely prevalent in his second stint with the Cavs.
Most recently, the talk of the entire NBA is the on-going conflict between James and New York Knicks center Enes Kanter. After their win against the Dallas Mavericks, James told the media that Mavs rookie Dennis Smith Jr should have been drafted by the Knicks instead of their rookie Frank Ntilikina. The media took this James’ quip (which was actually a shot at then-Knicks general manager Phil Jackson) and rubbed players like Kanter, Ntilikina, and Kristap Porzingis the wrong way. Heading into this weeks’ Knicks-Cavs game there was obviously some animosity between both squads and reached a boiling point late in the first quarter:
From this moment on, the game felt like a playoff atmosphere with chippiness between both teams but the Knicks were at one point blowing out the Cavaliers, leading at most by 23 points. But, through sheer determination and Sixth Man of the Year candidate Kyle Korver shining brightly on the world’s biggest stage, the Cavs were able to come back and win against a Knicks team that punked them at home a week before. After the game, Cavs players kept up the chippiness in their post game interviews and on Instagram:
NBA on TNT even joined in on the fun:
While the Arthur memes and social media beef with Enes Kanter have been fun, James knew exactly he was doing when he first went to the media to talk up Smith Jr and the Knicks mistake not picking him. The Cavaliers have been struggling and as mentioned before, the Wine and Golders were gobsmacked by the Knicks just a week ago. James decided to get in the Knicks players’ heads and force a playoff-type game to help awaken a sluggish Cavs team. This win against the Knicks may be the turning point of the 2017-18 Cleveland campaign, as they all put on the black mask and embrace the mentality of Cleveland against the world.
Besides beefing with other players, fans, teams, executives, and pretty much the whole world, James also uses his unconventional leadership techniques to beef with current and former teammates to help his team succeed.
The best example of this during his second stint with Cleveland was when James took to Twitter to make a thinly veiled shot at teammate Kevin Love:
Stop trying to find a way to FIT-OUT and just FIT-IN. Be apart of something special! Just my thoughts
— LeBron James (@KingJames) February 8, 2015
Before this, Love was clearly the odd man out of the Cavs offensive rotation, something the team simply could not have if they were to succeed. He was floundering during his first year with the Cavs and his confidence was quickly falling apart. In comes James who calls out Love to fit in, whether he wanted to or not. Soon after the tweet, James made a concerted effort to get Love more involved with the offense and hushed a lot of the doubters along the way Fast forward to now and Kevin Love is arguably the best power forward in the Eastern Conference and this was in part due to James taking to Twitter to call him out.
Besides current teammates, James also carries a massive grudge with former teammate Kyrie Irving to help motivate this current Cavaliers squad. In a recent article from Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck, James made the following statement about new Cavs guard Isaiah Thomas:
“It’s been a while since I’ve had that clear-cut guy who can get guys involved but also score at the same time,” James told B/R Mag. “But it’s fine. It’s something that our team will make an adjustment to.”
This is clearly a shot at former teammate at Kyrie Irving, who has been a huge part of why the Boston Celtics are currently one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. But besides the shot at Irving, this is also huge for James to boost the confidence of Thomas, who is a player known to carry a Herculean-sized chip on his shoulder. Well, so does James, the master of holding grudges and playing at his best with the biggest chip possible, so the tandem of James and Thomas is a match made in heaven. Throughout his career, Thomas has been doubted whether it was his playstyle, size, health, or anything in-between and to have the best player in the world on your side will be huge for the Cavaliers’ hope to win another NBA championship.
Since he is the greatest player in the world, and arguably of all time, James certainly has a lot of pull in terms of front office power. Numerous fans joke that James is the actual general manager of the Cavs, he is pretty blunt when there are problems with the roster that prevent the team from succeeding.
When James first announced he was coming home through his classic Sports Illustrated piece, the air in Northeast Ohio was electric. The area’s prodigal son was finally back and his goal was to win one for The Land. But everything was not roses in James’s first season back with Cleveland who took to the media to openly criticize the front office about the lack of a true center or shooting on the roster. To answer this the team flipped Dion Waiters, Lou Amundson, and Alex Kirk and received JR Smith and Iman Shumpert. A few days after they sent two first-round draft choices to obtain Timofey Mozgov from the Denver Nuggets and the roster was now much more to James’ liking. The team went on to dominate the Eastern conference before the injury bug struck and the team fell to the Golden State Warriors in the 2015 NBA Finals.
James also was quick to go up to bat for his teammates to make sure the front office properly takes care of them. Tristan Thompson, after a monstrous performance in the 2015 NBA Playoffs, was at a crossroads with the front office and all it took was James going to the media to force management’s hand to agree to Thompson’s desired contract. If it were not for this, the Cavs may not have won their first NBA Championship and ended Cleveland’s nearly six-decade-long championship drought as Thompson played a huge role in the championship-winning squad.
The other moment James was at odds with the front office was last season when he bluntly told the media that the team, “needed a playmaker” after losing Matthew Dellavedova in free agency to the Milwaukee Bucks. Then-general manager David Griffin was then able to find a steal on the waiver wire after the Dallas Mavericks bought out Deron Williams and able to find a solid backup point guard to help the team at its weakest position.
Despite everything that was just said about James, he is by no means a toxic player. He simply just wants to win a championship every year and never will become complacent at any step in his career. Through the cryptic social media posts to calling out people in the media, James is the puppet master that pulls all the strings to allow the Cavaliers to succeed. Besides Jim Brown and maybe Urban Meyer, James is the most powerful sports figure in Ohio and has certainly earned the pull that he has with the Cavaliers front office.
While the 2017-18 season is young, this Cavaliers squad has already seen its fair share of adversity and James will continue to be the best leader possible for this team. He will get teammates like Kevin Love or Jae Crowder involved to win, he will expect the best out of everyone from top to bottom, and he will continue to be a mystery to help build chemistry and the dynamic that it really is Cleveland against the world.