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James admitted in a sitdown interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols that he was a “little pissed off” when he initially heard what Durant said (starting at the 5:57 mark):
“I was a little pissed off when I first heard it, to be honest,” James told Nichols. “I didn’t know where it stemmed from. … I was asked later on that night after our game, and I didn’t want to comment because I didn’t see it, I didn’t hear [it]. … I started UNINTERRUPTED for a reason, and I know how sound bites can be chopped and diced and things of that nature, so I wanted to get the whole layout of what actually happened.”
He added, though, that he moved on after talking to Durant to get a better understanding of the comments.
“Got a phone call from KD,” James said. “He mentioned how he felt and how the story…how he felt the story took a twist. And as a man, I can’t, I don’t hold on to things—too long. I’m too happy in my life right now, and I don’t hold on to anything that will take away from my happiness.”
Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher published a story earlier this month that posed the question, “Why doesn’t anyone want to play with LeBron anymore?” In it, Durant was open and honest about why players around the league may not want to play with James even though he has made it to eight consecutive NBA Finals.
“It depends on what kind of player you are. … So much hype comes from being around LeBron from other people. He has so many fanboys in the media. Even the beat writers just fawn over him. I’m like, we’re playing basketball here, and it’s not even about basketball at certain points. So I get why anyone wouldn’t want to be in that environment because it’s toxic. Especially when the attention is bulls–t attention, fluff. It’s not LeBron’s fault at all; it’s just the fact you have so many groupies in the media that love to hang on every word. Just get out of the way and let us play basketball.”
It’s no secret that playing on James’ team is unlike any other situation in the league. His teammates are expected to find their roles and do their parts to provide support to the four-time NBA MVP. Although they may not get the stats they could achieve elsewhere (and may be referred to as “others“), they are often rewarded with the opportunity to play for a championship.
But given James is one of the greatest players in league history, his team is constantly under the microscope. Every game gets picked apart by the internet and talk shows everywhere, even though the team is ultimately judged based on its playoff success.
Some players can handle that environment—others can’t.
While he may not have been able to attract star free agents to join him on the Cavs, James believes there may be other factors involved:
NBA on ESPN @ESPNNBA
.@KingJames had a hard time recruiting other NBA stars to Cleveland.
In Los Angeles … He hopes it’s a different story. (via @Rachel__Nichols) https://t.co/iyAhIqgRkg
Now that he’s in L.A., recruiting could be easier than it was in Cleveland. Unless Durant’s “toxic” comments carry weight.
Even though James appears to have put Durant’s comments behind him, it will be worth keeping them in mind when the Lakers take on the Warriors on Tuesday.