At its very core, basketball isn’t complicated. If egos and personalities didn’t have to be taken into account, building rotations and designing systems wouldn’t be very difficult at all. Just let everyone fall in line according to talent and make sure their skillsets fit. Done.
It doesn’t work that way, though. Most NBA players come from a lifetime of being the best player on whichever team they’ve been on, having seen few players they would ever consider more talented than themselves. As a result, sacrificing for the betterment of the team can get complicated — and that’s before you take into account the financial impact sacrificing can have on guys.
In an article addressing whether some players might not want to play with LeBron James because of the sacrifice he inherently demands, Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report spoke to Kevin Durant, who opened up quite a bit on the topic.
”Kevin Love, he had to totally change his game to fit, to be a shooter,” Durant said. “Which, I think, he deserves way more credit for switching his game. Bosh, same way. LeBron is a player that needs to play with guys that already know how they play the game—and shooters. Like, young players that are still developing, it’s always going to be hard because he demands the ball so much, he demands control of the offense and he creates for everybody.”
It’s worth pointing out how players have had to sacrifice around Durant, too. This is by no means whatsoever a LeBron “problem.” On all teams, the best player gets the lion’s share of possessions to do with as they can, with other guys falling in around them. For some, maybe that percentage is a little more drastic, but the larger point remains.
Also worth pointing out here are the types of players Durant listed. Love and Bosh were both seen as the third-best player on their championship-level teams. So while pointing at James might make sense on some level, we’d be remiss not to mention how Dwyane Wade and Kyrie Irving also forced Bosh and Love do more with less.
Durant then turned his attention to what playing with James might be like off the court.
”So much hype comes from being around LeBron from other people,” Durant said. “He has so many fanboys in the media. Even the beat writers just fawn over him. I’m like, we’re playing basketball here, and it’s not even about basketball at certain points. So I get why anyone wouldn’t want to be in that environment because it’s toxic. Especially when the attention is bulls–t attention, fluff. It’s not LeBron’s fault at all; it’s just the fact you have so many groupies in the media that love to hang on every word. Just get out of the way and let us play basketball.”
Well said, Kevin, Perfectly stated. Not a single issue can be found throughout that last quote. You know what? I’ll applaud. I’m literally clapping my hand against my leg as I type.
Of course James has friends in the media. That’s just good public relations. Just because Durant relies on his own burner accounts for effusive praise doesn’t mean other superstars should follow the same technique. Hell, this isn’t even a player-specific trend, either. Elite NBA coaches and executives have friends in the media, too. That’s just kind of how all this works.
Now what’s going to happen is Durant’s statements are going to be used as proof that he definitely doesn’t want to play with LeBron when, really, everything he said here can be applied to any other star he might be looking to team up with, unless he’s looking to be the lone driving force on his next team — which comes with its own complications and expectations.
Durant’s candor was certainly interesting here, but really, nothing particularly new was pointed out. This idea that James carries complications unique to him specifically is certainly fun for content, and maybe no one signs up to play with him this or any other summer moving forward. Then it’s on the front office to adjust accordingly and James to maybe rethink his approach on and off the court. Until then, though, it’s hard to argue with how James’ career has gone to this point, almost regardless of teammates.