Just over three years ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers made history by coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors, which had finished the regular season with a 73-9 record, the best regular season mark of all time. That comeback wouldn’t have been possible without some late-game heroics by Kyrie Irving, who hit a clutch step-back 3-pointer over Klay Thompson, and, of course, LeBron James, who had arguably the most important block in NBA Finals history on Andre Iguodala in addition to the 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists, and 2.3 blocks he averaged through seven games.
The 2016 NBA Finals series was James at his best, and the team’s general manager at the time, David Griffin, thinks those days are behind James. During a recent interview with Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated, Griffin said James has lost his motivation to win since ending Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought.
They of course found vindication in 2016, historically overcoming a 3-1 series deficit against the 73-9 Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. The following season, however, brought that fantasy summer crashing back to reality. James’ contagious hunger to deliver a championship for Northeast Ohio dissipated. “There wasn’t a lot else for him,” Griffin says. “I don’t think he’s the same animal anymore about winning.” Many in the NBA now suggest James harbors two priorities: enduring to team with his eldest son, Bronny, and one day owning a franchise.
That sentiment was only amplified when James signed with the Los Angeles Lakers 35-47 and missed the postseason for the first time in over a decade last season, although an argument can be made that last year’s Lakers team is one of the worst teams for which James has ever played. Thus far, his most notable credits in Hollywood are off the court, but that’s expected to change sooner rather than later. Next season, a 34-year-old James will have the opportunity to compete for a championship alongside his new superstar teammate and Space Jam 2 co-star Anthony Davis in a stacked Western Conference.
If by this time next year James doesn’t have a fourth ring on his finger, Griffin’s comments may be worth re-visiting. Until then, it may be a bit premature to say that James, who is just over a year removed from averaging 34 points, 9.1 rebounds, and nine assists per game in the playoffs, doesn’t care about winning basketball games