LeBron James has four NBA championships, is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and is widely considered one of the greatest players in league history.
In his 20th NBA season, James has shown few signs of slowing down, averaging 29.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 6.9 assists in 47 games.
NBA players all look up to James, but playing with the 19-time All-Star is no walk in the park.
Every season, James expects to contend for a championship, with the pressure on his teammates mounting when losing occurs.
J.R. Smith, who played alongside James with the Cleveland Cavaliers for four seasons, discussed what it was like playing alongside the all-time great on the “Game Theory with Bomani Jones.”
“Honestly, it’s a gift and a curse with playing with Bron,” Smith said. “I love Bron to death and I loved playing on his team because, for me, I feel I thrived more under the pressure. But a lot of guys don’t like it because it can go one of two ways.
“It’s either, what did you not do to help him win? And, who else didn’t help to not help him win?”
Smith won the 2016 NBA championship with James in Cleveland, becoming the first team to come back from a 3–1 deficit in the NBA Finals.
However, Smith is also remembered for his mental mistake in the 2018 finals, when he ran out the clock in Game 1 against the Golden State Warriors with the score tied 107-107.
Cleveland went on to lose Game 1 in overtime, even with James putting forth a Herculean effort, scoring 51 points as the Warriors swept the Cavs in the series.
The supporting cast around James is always scrutinized, with James constantly looking to improve the roster.
With the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2022-23 season, James made it clear before the NBA’s trade deadline that upgrading the roster in a push to make the playoffs was paramount.
The Lakers did, trading away Russell Westbrook and adding Jarred Vanderbilt, DeAngelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Mo Bamba.
However, LA is still battling for a playoff spot as they await James’ return from a right foot injury.
As is always the case on a team led by James, the spotlight will be on the Lakers – and his teammates – as they make their push for the postseason.