When LeBron James struggled down the stretch of the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals, basketball fans around the country wondered what led to the uncharacteristic performance. Was an unknown injury hindering his play? Was he just worn out after years of carrying the Cleveland Cavaliers on his back? Did he already have one foot out the door?
It turned out James was betrayed by a Cavaliers teammate around the time of the series. And not just the ‘borrow your shoes and never return them’ betrayed. James’ teammate allegedly slept with his mother, which would more than explain his sub-par play.
LeBron James played his worst playoff series in the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals
By the 2009-2010 season, LeBron James already established himself as one of the great players in the NBA at just 25 years old. He led the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the fifth straight year in 2010.
Cleveland took a 2-1 series lead against the Boston Celtics thanks to James’ 38 points in game three, but everything came unraveled afterward.
The Cavaliers went on to lose the next three games by an average of 17 points. That included a 32-point drubbing in front of Cleveland’s home fans. James shot 3-14 in the game and recorded a -22.
In all, James shot a measly 34% in the final three games of the series, but it wasn’t just his shooting woes that puzzled NBA fans. James seemed lackadaisical and completely uninterested during the closing games of his season. He wasn’t engaging with his teammates and pushing them like normal.
NBA fans knew something was wrong behind the scenes, but no one would’ve guessed the possible reason for James’ struggles.
James’ teammate Delonte West allegedly slept with his mother
Shortly after the series loss to the Celtics, rumors started swirling about the unrest inside the Cleveland locker room. Eventually, it was revealed Delonte West, James’ teammate in 2010, slept with James’ mother, Gloria. James apparently found out during the series, and his play immediately took a dive.
It started as a rumor, but NBA legend Calvin Murphy came out the next year and confirmed the story to be true.
“Unfortunately, my sources in the NBA tell me that [the rumors are] absolutely true,” he said in a radio interview. “My sources, and they’re legit, tell me that the only people that didn’t know it was happening was LeBron and me.”
Fans still didn’t believe the wild story, but West himself seemed to confirm the rumors a few years later.
After years of keeping silent on the matter, West finally snapped in 2016. In an Instagram post, West took a shot at James and mentioned his affair with Gloria. The post has since been deleted, but the caption read:
“Since @kingjames wanna talk bad bout his pops I had to repost dis #Ha #NawReallyDoeImLebronSPops #AskGloria,” West wrote.
LeBron James left the Cavaliers after the 2009-2010 season
After the 2009-2010 season, more rumors were swirling about James leaving Cleveland because of the drama in the locker room. James was reported to be fed up with his teammates after he was stabbed in the back.
James decided to leave Cleveland and take his talents to South Beach in 2010. Most fans thought he would play out his entire career with his hometown team, but something catastrophic drove him out of Ohio.
Was West’s alleged relationship with James’ mother the cause of his departure to Miami? We may never know.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference