LeBron James Explains Why Young Hoopers Bother “The F— Out of Me”


Twenty-time NBA All-Star Los Angeles Lakers All-Star combo forward LeBron James has a bone to pick with the NBA’s younger players. The 21-season league vet, who has spent more time playing in the NBA in his 39 years on this planet than not, took to Mind The Game, his brand-new podcast with former sharpshooting swingman J.J. Redick (who is the same age and long-since retired) to discuss an ethos to NBA games that bothers him to no end.

“Everyone now has a narrative of this thing called, ‘I have a bag,’ or ‘He doesn’t have a bag,'” James said. “It bothers the f— out of me. Everyone thinks just because you get a favorable matchup that it means it’s one-on-one time. ‘Let’s play ones.’ That’s all you hear the kids talk about now. …

“What the f— is this? This is not Jordan vs. Bird Nintendo. It’s five-on-five, and yes, if you have an opportunity to have a favorable matchup and you can beat your man, but realize something. Most great teams are going to send help, and can you make the right reads? Can you instill confidence in your teammates to when you’ve scored twice in that favorable matchup, do you know that the double is coming? And you have to see it either coming from the tilt on the baseline or from the fire from the nail. You have to be ready for that.”

LeBron James GG Jackson
LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers, the league’s oldest player, handles the ball against GG Jackson #45 of the Memphis Grizzlies, the league’s youngest player, during the first half at FedExForum on March…

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By “favorable matchup,” James is referring to offensive players who find themselves with a size, strength or speed advantage in a defensive coverage situation. James, of course, is usually that exact player himself given his physical gifts, but he is famous for being a great distributor who earlier in his career was accused of being too deferential, if anything. This year, he’s averaging 8.1 dimes a game.

“And it takes time for guys,” James continued. “Some guys don’t wanna learn and won’t learn because they just wanna play ones. I’ve had guys on the court that literally said to me before, ‘Why y’all doubling me? Stop doubling me, let me play ones.’ ‘You have 40! No, we’re going to double you not only because you’re great, but also I know none of your teammates have been in a rhythm all game, and we’re going to see if they can make a shot.'”

It’s a fascinating revelation. The fact that the next generation of great NBA talent wants to prioritize isolation ball over anything else is somewhat ominous.

Happily, however, there is still hope for the future. Some of the best young players in today’s game are also some of its best passers. Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic is also one of the elite playmakers in the game, as is Dallas Mavericks combo guard Luka Doncic. Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who has emerged as a leading MVP candidate this season along with those two more established stars, also sports solid passing instincts in addition to his gifts as a scorer.