LeBron James and the LA Lakers continue to look like the NBA’s best team after winning the championship last season. They earned a statement win over two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks recently, too, as they won 113-106. However, after the game, James made some comments that led to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith accusing him of lying “to the American public.”
LeBron James lost to Giannis Antetokounmpo in the 2019-20 MVP race
The 2019-20 NBA MVP race was essentially between LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Antetokounmpo, at the time, was coming off his first MVP season, as he averaged 27.7 points per game, 12.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists in 2018-19. He then followed that up with 29.5 points per game, 13.6 rebounds, and 5.6 assists in 2019-20. Antetokounmpo helped the Bucks claim the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference for the second consecutive season in 2019-20, too.
LeBron James, on the other hand, led the LA Lakers to the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. He did so by averaging 25.3 points per game, 7.8 rebounds, and he led the NBA in assists per game for the first time in his career with 10.2 per outing.
Antetokounmpo ended up winning the MVP award, though, with 85 first-place votes, and James — who went on to lead the Lakers to the NBA championship — finished second with 16 first-place votes, per NBA.com.
James wasn’t happy with how many first-place votes he received, either.
“It pissed me off,” James said, according to The Athletic. “That’s my true answer. It pissed me off because out of 101 votes, I got 16 first-place votes. That’s what pissed me off more than anything.”
He recently said it has never been about individual success
James got the best of Antetokounmpo on Jan. 21, as the Lakers defeated the Bucks 113-106. James had 34 points in the game to go with eight assists and six rebounds, while Antetokounmpo had 25 points to go with 12 rebounds. Antetokounmpo also had nine turnovers in the game.
James has essentially dominated Antetokounmpo over the years. His teams are 16-5 against Antetokounmpo and the Bucks all-time. After Thursday’s game, James then received a question about whether he feels any satisfaction when finding success against the back-to-back MVP.
“Nah, I think you know me; I think all you guys know me, it’s never been about individual, it’s all about the team’s success. That’s all that matters,” James said, via ESPN. “I can care less about that. I just try to play well and help our team win versus any opponent, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Stephen A. Smith said LeBron James ‘lied to the American public’
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith recently appeared on First Take, and he accused James of lying when saying it’s never about individual accolades.
“I think that LeBron stood in front of the cameras last night and lied to the American public, and anybody else who was listening,” Smith said on the Jan. 22 episode. “But I’m not knocking him for it. I think that, listen, LeBron wouldn’t be as great as he is if all he thought about was the outcome for the team. Especially in the sport of basketball, there is some individual pride that seeps into the equation, where you put dude’s on notice, ‘This is who the hell I am. Don’t forget.'”
He continued: “When LeBron sits up there and goes in for a layup and gets an and-1 and flexes his muscle, is that about the team? When he sits up there and dunks on somebody and screams at the crowd, is that about the team? … Nobody’s accusing him of caring about his individual accolades more than the team. No, he’s proven that he’s unselfish on that level.”
Smith then also strengthened his stance by reiterating that James’ comments were “a damn lie.”
“There’s no way you can be as great as him, and you never have that intestinal fortitude and that individual pride to put your greatness on display; you don’t spend a-million-and-a-half dollars on your physique, your body, your conditioning, and everything that comes with it to be as great as you can be just for the team to win a championship,” he said. “No, you want to be the reason or a primary reason why you win that championship.”
Smith certainly made some excellent points. James is regarded as one of the top two players of all-time. He certainly has to think about his legacy from time to time, and many of his decisions seem to revolve around his legacy, too.
While he does appear to constantly think about his team and winning championships with his team, LeBron James most likely thinks about himself and his accomplishments at least some of the time. Who can blame him, though?
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference