It’s no secret that LeBron pays attention to what is being said about him him in both the sports media and on social media. He’s not like KD, where he will respond directly to haters and critics (sometimes even on burner accounts), but is usually keenly aware of the media narratives about him and his team.
“The way he plays” = that’s talking about Russ.
“He stays injured” = that’s talking about AD.
“We’re past our time in this league” = that’s talking about himself and Melo. And Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol, Trevor Ariza and all the other #OldDudes on the squad.
Now it’s true that the sports media has been saying all this stuff, but for the most part, I don’t think they’ve been overly negative about the Lakers. I think there’s been a lot of jokes about how old the Lakers are, but at the end of the day, I think the consensus–at least amongst most honest, sane sports media talking heads–is that the Lakers are probably the best team in the West, but still aren’t good enough to beat the Nets. I don’t think people are writing them off and acting like they’re going to be terrible and lose in the first round or anything.
But I love this out of LeBron: he’s motivating himself. This is why everyone slobbers over MJ endlessly, after all: because MJ would literally invent reasons to be pissed off and gain extra motivation. “This is why MJ is the GOAT! He’s such a ferocious competitor!”
People don’t like it when LeBron does it, though.
When you’re the best, it’s easy to get complacent and satisfied with all your accomplishments. So you do almost have to invent or at least exaggerate criticisms and slights against you in order to stay motivated and hungry, and foster a perpetual underdog mentality. “Oh, they think I fell off? Watch this.” “They’re really counting me out, aren’t they?” “Y’all think THIS DUDE is better than me? Alright, I got something for ya.”
LeBron is right, though, that most of the sports media doesn’t give him the benefit of the doubt. There are a few notable LeBron stans in the media like Shannon Sharpe and Nick Wright, but there are way more LeBron haters in the sports media than LeBron stans.
When people debate a given topic sports–or even politics, too–there are always two mentalities to approach it. I like to call it “scrutinizers vs. excusers.” Let’s take LeBron for example: most people in the sports media are “scrutinizers” when it comes to LeBron, meaning they start from a negative viewpoint of him, so they only focus on his flaws and shortcomings, while downplaying all the positives. “4-6 in the Finals! Mickey Mouse ring! Choked to the Mavs in 2011! JJ Barea! Can’t shoot free throws! Sure, he beat the Warriors in 2016, but that’s only because Draymond got suspended for Game 5!”
Then you have the “excusers,” who view LeBron in an inherently positive light and thus downplay or dismiss all the negatives while emphasizing all the positives and all the great things he’s done.
It’s the same thing in politics, too: with Trump, if you hated him, you viewed everything he did in the worst possible light, and if you loved him, he could do no wrong in your eyes.
It just shows you how two people can look at the same thing–be it a political figure, an athlete or anything else–and have wildly different interpretations. It’s all based on their preexisting viewpoints.
And I do think that because a lot of people already hate LeBron, Westbrook and the Lakers in general, there’s a lot of negativity and doubting when it comes to this team. People in the media tend to only focus on why the team might not win, as opposed to why they might win. “They’re so old! They have no shooting! They have no shot against Brooklyn!”
Meanwhile, they never focus on any of the negatives with the Brooklyn Nets, such as: Can we even trust them to stay healthy? Will they have any interior presence at all? Will they be able to defend anybody?
Nick Wright brought up a great point about the “narrative flips” in LeBron’s career:
We tend to forget what people were saying in the moment about a given event, but a lot of time it varies wildly from what the conventional wisdom becomes after the event has already happened. For example, in the NFL this season, up until they actually won the Super Bowl, most people didn’t think the Bucs were good enough to win it all. Now that the Super Bowl is in the rearview mirror and the ink is dry on last season, we all kind look at it and say, “Well of course the Bucs won, they had the GOAT and the most loaded roster in the league.”
But people weren’t saying that during the regular season. During the regular season, the Bucs lost 38-3 to the Saints, they lost to the Rams, they lost to the Chiefs at home. And the Chiefs looked basically unbeatable during the regular season. Most people thought the Chiefs would win the Super Bowl–myself included, I picked them to win on this site. The Bucs were +3.5 going into the game.
What Nick Wright is talking about here is how so many in the sports media forget what they themselves were saying in the moment at critical junctures of LeBron’s career:
- In the 2012 playoffs, down 3-2 to Boston and having choked in the 2011 Finals, people were really saying that the Heat were cooked, the Big Three experiment was a failure and they were going to have to blow it up. But then LeBron had one of the greatest playoff performances ever–45 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists on 19-26 shooting–to give the Heat a 98-79 road victory and force a Game 7, which the Heat obviously won, and then the Heat went on to win the Championship in 5 games over the Thunder for LeBron’s first ring (a series in which the Heat were underdogs, a fact people never mention).
- Nowadays, we look back at that series and think, “Well, of course the Heat won; they were an unbeatable superteam.”
- In 2016, when the Cavs were down 3-1 to the Warriors, people were saying LeBron would never win a title in Cleveland, the Warriors are just too good, 73-9, greatest team ever, etc. Then the Cavs came back and won.
- Now, that 73-9 Warriors team is given no respect. “They needed KD to come in!”
- In 2018, when the Cavs were struggling with the Pacers in the first round and the Celtics in the Conference Finals, it was, “They’re terrible, they have no chance against these teams.”
- When the Cavs made it to the Finals, the narrative flipped to, “Well of course LeBron won the East–the East is trash.”
- In the 2020 playoffs, which weren’t that long ago, remember how the Lakers didn’t look all that great leading up to the playoffs? There were 8 “Seeding Games” (which counted as regular season games in terms of the standings) in the bubble before the playoffs actually started, and in those games, the Lakers went 3-5. The Blazers, meanwhile, went 6-2 and Damian Lillard was named Seeding Games MVP for averaging 37 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Blazers to a playoff spot (they began the Seeding Games 3.5 games behind the Grizzlies for the 8th seed). People were saying the Blazers were the toughest 8 seed ever and some (like Charles Barkley) even said the Blazers would beat the Lakers. The Lakers won in 5 games. They beat Houston in 5 games next round, Denver in 5 games in the Conference Finals, then beat Miami in 6 games in the Finals.
- The Lakers were dismissed all season as too old, not enough shooting, and basically a Meme Team because they had Dwight Howard, JaVale McGee, Rondo, KCP and Alex Caruso. Remember that season, everybody was picking the Clippers to win it all. The sports media could not stop gushing about how incredible the Clippers were. They called Kawhi the best player in the world because he led Toronto to the title the year prior, and he was even cutting ads about being the New King of LA, a direct shot at LeBron.
- Now it’s like, “Well of course the Lakers won, they were a superteam.”
The point is, people are so quick to change their tune when their predictions are proven wrong. They never want to give LeBron credit even when surpasses their own expectations.
And that’s what LeBron’s saying right now: All of you people who are doubting us, calling AD injury-prone, saying you can’t win with Russ, saying we’re too old–please make sure you keep that same energy when we start winning games and proving you wrong.
Because you know if the Lakers win the title this year, the narrative will instantly flip to, “Well of course the Lakers won, they were a straight-up superteam.”