Even the harshest LeBron critics will give him credit for being the GOAT in one department - setting up media narratives. Bill Simmons often referred to the "LeBron media mafia" when talking about awards season this year, being one of the rare people willing to address the fact LeBron gets the most favorable of media treatments in the NBA - nowhere else like on ESPN.
There have been numerous examples of games the Lakers lost, and LeBron wasn't even the best LA player that night, yet ESPN coverage was full of LeBron highlights. From surface-level bias like that, which can in part be understood given LeBron's popularity amongst fans, to more serious topics, the mainstream knows what's off-limits. Can you think of a single person from an NBA media partner who examined and questioned LeBron on his China episode? Me neither. His posted, then deleted tweet about the police officer in the latest Minessota incident? Again, nothing.
But most of the time, LeBron's building a narrative to support his GOAT case. For instance, when the most popular, adored player in basketball, constantly talked about as the only man to challenge Michael Jordan as the GOAT, said he "wants his damn respect." Or, when he went on his former teammates' podcast and said this.
“The one thing that I know for sure, that I’ve been a part of two teams that won the two hardest championships in NBA league history. The 2016 Cavs coming down from 3-1 vs. a 73-9 team, one of the best teams ever assembled, (against a) two-time MVP. And then what we went through in the bubble.”
LeBron James, Road Trippin'
You'll be shocked to hear that Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye didn't really question LeBron when he said this. I guess that's the benefit of only giving interviews to friends and business partners. Sounds quite comfortable. LeBron's narrative building has been in form this season, and an unlikely ESPN employee called him out on it.
Maybe it's a little bit of a cynic in me, Stephen A. First, we had LeBron come out, and he said, 'I'm not 100%, I don't know if I'll be 100% again' and now he's saying Steph's MVP. I think he is setting up the narrative like 'Hey, when we beat Steph and the Warriors and we take them out real quick I beat the MVP'
Molly Qerim, First Take
Steven A. pushed back on this, saying LeBron clarified his "100%" comments, explaining he was referring to all the miles LeBron's put on his body during his career. That may be the case, but I think Molly is on to something. LeBron takes every opportunity he gets to set the scene, so his achievements seem as great as possible.
So in case they win again, LeBron can go back to Road Tripping' and say, "I beat the first unanimous MVP, in my opinion, the 2021 MVP on a bad ankle, and then went all the way. I'm not just saying this; I said it before the playoffs." If they lose, well, he was playing the MVP on a bad ankle; what do you want?
Everyone who followed LeBron's career, like Brian Windhorst, points out that James is meticulous about his media image and is aware of everything written and said about him. That's what "The Decision" does to a man, I suppose. Far from it that LeBron is the only player in the NBA blowing up his own horn - most people do it nowadays.
Call me old fashioned, but I prefer the past when players let their game and others do the talking.