Early Thursday morning, Sports Illustrated published a story where former Cleveland Cavaliers general manager and current New Orleans Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin shared some of his thoughts on the time he spent working with LeBron James, and he didn’t exactly give the four-time league MVP a glowing endorsement.
During Griffin’s interview with Jake Fischer, Griffin said he was “miserable” during his time in Cleveland and that no amount of money would have been able to keep him there. However, the quote that raised more than a few eyebrows was one about the environment James creates specifically:
Griffin celebrated at first, then collapsed on his office floor in tears after James’ letter ran on SI.com, overwhelmed by the sudden pressure to deliver The King’s coveted ring. Noise around a superteam is deafening. It can cause combustible conditions. “The reason is LeBron is getting all the credit and none of the blame. And that’s not fun for people,” Griffin says. “They don’t like being part of that world.”
Naturally, that quote from Griffin caught the attention of quite a few people, including James himself, who, according to ESPN, was caught off guard by the comments in the SI story:
Sources close to James told ESPN on Thursday they were “shocked” at Griffin’s characterization of the superstar. James seemingly addressed the Griffin story via a tweet on Thursday without mentioning him by name.
Former NBA center Kendrick Perkins, who played with James in Cleveland in 2015 when Griffin was the GM there (and later in 2018 when Griffin no longer worked for the team), suggested Griffin should direct his disappointment at Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, not James.
Griffin and a person close to James spoke after the SI story was published, sources told ESPN, and Griffin expressed that some context was missing behind his comments. James’ camp encouraged Griffin to clear up his stance on the record, sources said.
According to the same report, Griffin’s comments weren’t directly about James, but the attention that he attracts:
A source familiar with Griffin’s thinking said the Pelicans exec’s intention was to refer to the media machine surrounding James and simply acknowledge a byproduct of his immense celebrity, rather than blame James for creating the atmosphere.
In Griffin’s defense, these types of comments aren’t something he’s known for and there’s no reason to believe there is any ill-will between him and James. That being said, there’s still one quote that’s unaccounted for.
For some reason, Griffin felt the need to say that he doesn’t think James has cared about winning since he brought a championship home to Cleveland: Here’s the full quote:
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.
There are a lot things that can be said about the above quote, but James had the best response:
Alright alright. Enough is enough. The throne has been played with to much and I ain’t for horseplay. Ether coming soon! #JamesGang✊— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 1, 2019
For now, we’ll leave it at that.