I think this is one of the most unappreciated points for MJ being the GOAT. It’s also a perfect way to describe the difference between generations — the way Michael Jordan and LeBron James deal with frustrations within their locker room. The Last Dance showed us MJ was in everyone’s face. He would let people know, 24/7 if they weren’t playing up to his standards.
LeBron James is on the other that of that spectrum. Did we ever have a more theatrical superstar when it came to teammates’ mistakes on the court? If LeBron wasn’t pleased, he would let the whole world know with body language and facial expressions. Hell, Kevin Love got a tweet, and we all know it was for him. Not only that but the next day, LeBron didn’t acknowledge that in any shape or form. Just pretended it never happened.
This is where Rajon Rondo turned out to be crucial for the Lakers’ success. If you go back through LeBron’s career, how many young players have flourished on his rosters? Exactly. Playing with James is a tough environment as is, and his behavior doesn’t help. Rondo had no problem calling LeBron out for it.
“When guys are making the same mistakes over and over and over, it’s hard to bite your tongue. But I tried to get [James] to focus on his body language. Those young guys were looking at everything he did. If they missed four shots in a row and LeBron was making a face, it was crushing to them. He was their Michael Jordan. They didn’t want to let him down. But if LeBron said one thing positive to Brandon Ingram or Kyle Kuzma, they immediately were back to their old selves.”Rajon Rondo, ESPN
Rondo’s return from a broken thumb also marks the moment the Lakers started to play much better. His contribution is significantly larger than his personal box-score.
When LeBron makes a face, it’s not crushing just because his teammates know they messed up. In addition to that, they know the next 24 hours, Twitter and Instagram will be full of memes and gifs. Most players are scrolling through social media at halftime – you can imagine what they’re doing in the hours after the game.
I guess LeBron does it to let everyone know “you see what I have to deal with?” In that way, to defend his own legacy, LeBron pushes his teammates into the limelight. That’s the complete opposite of the “what happens in the locker room, stays in the locker room.”
That’s what I miss about the good old days. It’s not more midrange shots or knocking someone down if they enter the paint. But if you have a problem with me, look me in the eye and let me know. Don’t make a scene about it, to get public sympathy on your side.