When you’re the most popular player in the NBA and one of the most famous stars in the world, you’re going to have both fans and haters. Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James certainly has the latter, and many of them have helped push a popular misconception about The King. That misconception is that he’s a “coach killer.”
However, one of James’ current coaches on the Lakers, who also coached him on the Cleveland Cavaliers, recently cleared up that misconception.
LeBron James has been labeled a ‘coach killer’
Throughout his career, James has received the unjustifiable label of “coach killer.”
According to Bleacher Report, a Miami Heat minority owner once said James allegedly wanted Erik Spoelstra fired during his years in Miami. However, James later said that he had never even met that minority owner before, and multiple reporters later challenged that person’s claim.
Once James went back to the Cavaliers in 2014, he spent one-and-a-half seasons with David Blatt as his head coach, and they even went to the NBA Finals together. But 41 games into the second season, the Cavaliers fired Blatt and promoted Tyronn Lue to head coach. Many people suggested that James had something to do with Blatt’s firing, but ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that the Cavs didn’t even consult James on the decision.
James ultimately wasn’t very happy about people thinking he had something to do with it, either.
“It sucks,” James said in 2016, per ESPN. “But what can I do about it? I’ve never, in my time since I picked up a basketball, ever undermined a coach, ever disrespected a coach. You ask any of my little league coaches, my high school coaches, coaches I’ve played for in tournaments, camps, my NBA coaches. I’ve always respected what they wanted to do. And I’m not the owner of a team, I’m not the GM of a team. I’m the player of a team.”
James then moved to the Lakers in 2018-19, and the misconception grew. After spending one season with Luke Walton as his head coach, James saw the Lakers mutually part ways with Walton. They then hired Frank Vogel, who James won a championship with during the 2020 season.
Phil Handy cleared up the misconception about LeBron
Phil Handy has been an assistant coach with LeBron James on the Cavs and Lakers. While recently appearing on Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson’s All The Smoke podcast, Handy shared some insight that should clear up the “coach killer” misconception.
“I didn’t know Bron; I had no relationship with him whatsoever,” Handy said of James’ return to the Cavaliers from the Heat in 2014. “… His first day back to Cleveland, I sat down and asked him, I said, ‘Man, what areas do you want to improve? Where do you want to get better? How can I help assist you in that process?’ And Bron was just like, ‘Footwork, ball handling, post-ups, I want to get better at everything.’”
Handy continued: “I will say this to this day man, for somebody of his caliber, that man is a student of the game, and he wants to be coached. He wants to be uncomfortable to continue to get better every day, even to this point.”
Does that sound like someone who is a coach killer?
Phil Handy continued to praise LeBron James
Handy didn’t stop there in terms of praising the type of player and person James is on and off the court. He made it clear that James has a relentless work ethic and is a player who listens to his coaches while also knowing what he wants, and that’s to win championships.
“His work ethic is insane; the way he takes care of his body is unbelievable, that man is literally in the weight room 365 days,” Handy said. “He might take time off the court, but he is doing something to his body every day. … I think the misconception is that he’s a coach, he’s a GM. Man, he’s coachable; he wants to be coached; he wants to be challenged in that way.”
James is one of the best players to ever play the game, and while that has its perks, it has also led to there being negative misconceptions about him. According to Handy, though, James wants to get better, and one of the only ways he can actually do that is by being coached. So, how would it benefit James to be an uncoachable player?
Given that James is in the public eye, he is fair game when it comes to criticism. However, it’s probably about time we put the “coach killer” misconception to bed.