If LeBron James had struggled during Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, no one would have blamed him. Well, let us rephrase that: Plenty of people would have blamed him (we see you, Skip), but he wouldn’t have deserved the blame that would have come his way. He did, after all, carry the Cavaliers on his back during Game 5 (41 points, 16 rebounds) and Game 6 (41 points, 11 assists) of the Finals against the Warriors, and without him, there wouldn’t have even been a Game 7. So it would have been hard to put too much of the blame on him for a less-than-stellar Game 7.
He didn’t struggle, though. Through the first 22 minutes of the first half of Game 7, LeBron had 12 points, seven rebounds, and five assists, but as Lee Jenkins points out in his latest piece on LeBron—a piece that celebrates LeBron being named Sports Illustrated’s "Sportsperson of the Year" for the second time—that wasn’t good enough for Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue.
During a timeout with a little more than two minutes left in the first half of Game 7, Lue told LeBron, "Bron, you’ve got to be better than this." That reportedly led to LeBron barking back, "What more do you want me to do?" And Lue responded by saying, "Stop being so passive! Stop turning the ball over! And guard Draymond [Green]!"
This didn’t sit well with LeBron, but it didn’t stop Lue from going in on him again in the locker room at the half. And for a second time, it led to LeBron getting angry. It also led to him trying to figure out why he of all people was catching hell from his head coach. As Jenkins write, LeBron sought answers from Cavaliers assistant coach Damon Jones and longtime teammate James Jones, who both told him to trust Lue. But according to Lue, LeBron was still pissed off.
"He stormed out of the locker room," Lue told SI. "I didn’t really think he was playing that bad. But I used to work for Doc Rivers in Boston, and he told me, 'I never want to go into a Game 7 when the best player is on the other team.' We had the best player. We needed him to be the best. I know he might have been tired, but f--- that. We had to ride him. And he had to take us home."
Lue’s plan was, as you know, successful, and it led to LeBron playing out of his mind at the end of the game, which led to the Cavaliers winning their first title in more than 50 years.
Elsewhere in Jenkins’ piece, LeBron discusses all of the other things that led him to where he is today. From his humble upbringing in Akron, Ohio to the approach he took to the game of basketball after returning to Cleveland following several seasons in Miami with the Heat, it’s a great look at everything that makes LeBron, well, LeBron. You can read the SI piece here.