LeBron James has been the best player on his team his entire life. Even as a 19-year-old rookie on the Cleveland Cavaliers, he led his team in points per game.
James’ historic greatness has lifted his teammates to heights they likely wouldn’t have seen otherwise. However, it’s also been a problem for his teammates that strive to be as great as him, or just resent the idea of being a No. 2 option. Fortunately for the Lakers, that hasn’t been a problem between James and his latest superstar teammate Anthony Davis.
“We’re not jealous of each other,” James said of his relationship with Davis during his NBA Finals media availability on Thursday. “I think that’s the best thing. In professional sports, you have guys that join forces: two alpha males, is what they call them ... they get together and talk about how dominant they can be and they talk about how this going to be this and that. I believe jealousy creeps in a lot and that is the absolute contrary of what we are.
“We know who we are, we know what we’re about and we want the best — seriously, every single day, on and off the floor — for one another. We’re just not jealous of one another, and I think when you align that with respect, I think sky’s the limit.”
James experienced the damning effects of a jealous superstar teammate firsthand with Kyrie Irving.
Prior to James’ return to Cleveland in 2014, Irving, the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, was the Cavaliers’ lone star. When he and James joined forces, James cast a shadow over Irving, and Irving left Cleveland to escape that shadow despite the success they had together.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that these comments from James came on the same day that Irving seemingly took a jab at James by saying that Kevin Durant is the first teammate that he’s had that can hit shots down the stretch as well as he can. Here’s the full quote via “The ETCs” podcast:
“One thing I’ve always been comfortable with is ... I felt like I was the best option on every team I played for down the stretch. This is the first time in my career where I can be like, ‘That mother [expletive] can make that shot too.”
Irving clarified that he didn’t mean it as a slight to any of his previous teammates, but going based off of James’ comments on Wednesday, it certainly seemed like it was taken as one. That’s all in the past, though.
James is three games away from winning a championship with Davis, which, according to Davis, will settle any jealousy that he feels towards James.
“He has ring,” Davis said when he was asked to pick something about James that he’s jealous of. “But he made a promise to me and so far, he’s kept it, so hopefully I don’t have to be envious of that much longer. I want to win and he has three of them, so that would be the one thing for sure that I would be jealous about.”
Beyond that, Davis said his ego hasn’t clashed with James’ because it hasn’t been there — for them or anyone else on the team.
“I’m not jealous of him, he’s not jealous of me, and I think it shows on the court,” Davis said. “That can always creep in when you’ve got two alpha males on the same team, but when you’ve got to guys that are very selfless and want to win as bad as both of us want to, the rest of it goes away and just takes care of itself.
“Jealousy has never been a thing on our team, from anyone. Everyone is extremely excited for the other guy. When guys get awards or accolades, our team is the first one to congratulate them. We bring it up in film or after the game, whenever we see it. But no one is jealous of one another.”
We’ve heard nothing but good things about the Lakers’ chemistry all season long, but the playoffs is where team chemistry is really tested, and they’ve passed every test they’ve had so far with flying colors even though more than half of the team is new.
Part of that can be attributed to the team’s veterans, starting with James, but it can also be attributed to how everyone on the team — from top to bottom — has bought into the team-first mentality Frank Vogel has promoted since the start of the season: the idea that no one player is bigger than the Lakers.
The Lakers have one goal, and it’s to win a championship. The best way to do that? Together.