If there’s one motive retired players will always repeat, it’s that players today are not as tough as they were back in the day. There’s too much friendship and respect, and not enough elbowing on the court for their liking. The genesis of that take can be taken back to the banana boat crew. When LeBron joined Miami, teaming up with Wade and Bosh, it was considered a weak move. We were told that true champions want to beat the best, not join them.
Ever since then, the fact that superstars work out together during the summer, are on vacations together and are friendly before and after the game annoys retired players like nothing else. LeBron James has been hearing about that for a decade now, and he’s had enough. Last night was the second Lakers – Pelicans game in a week, and the LeBron and Zion comparison was impossible to avoid. After both games, LeBron spoke highly about Zion and hugged him after the game. In anticipation of all the criticism, LeBron had a simple message for everyone interested.
“Anybody that says that ‘LeBron why would he do that while he’s playing? Is he showing a sign of weakness? He’s buddy-buddy with guys he’s going against.’ Tell them they can kiss my ass … with a smile too.”LeBron James
LeBron elaborated that he feels it is his responsibility to pass on the motivation and knowledge he has to the young stars that will one day take his place at the top of the league. That doesn’t mean he won’t give his 100% when playing against them – his performances against the Pelicans proved that.
The best part about it is, we’ve seen mentorship and friendships throughout NBA history. Bill Russell would sleepover at Wilt’s home, and his mom would cook for them before a game in Philly. Barkley and Jordan became buddies and played golf all the time during the 90s. We have video of MJ giving Kobe advice on angles and moves during a game.
We assume that the first statement about players being tougher and not as friendly is accurate, and then we debate if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. The fact of the matter is, that statement is not true, to begin with. Greatness recognizes greatness, and they will always share and learn from each other. Especially when it’s LeBron in his 17th season giving advice to a rookie Zion.