There are few things worse than getting called out by your boss for doing a bad job at work. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the business of flipping burgers, trading stocks, or putting a basketball through a hoop for a living. It sucks when someone pulls rank and tells you that you’re not doing enough or putting forth enough effort.
LeBron James obviously isn’t the boss inside of the Cavaliers organization, but he is a boss when it comes to leading his teammates both on and off the court. If you haven’t noticed by now, the Cavs go as LeBron goes. So if he’s happy with the way the team is playing, then everyone else, including his fellow players, coaches, and even those in the front office, are happy, too. But if he’s not? Look out. The entire Cavs roster looks completely different now than it did at the start of the season, and you could argue that it’s because of some of the comments LeBron made mid-season about wanting better playmakers on the team.
Right now, the Cavaliers are technically sitting pretty at the top of the Eastern Conference standings. They hold the No. 1 seed in the playoff race at the moment. But with the Celtics and Wizards breathing down their necks, it feels like there’s a little bit of anxiety surrounding the team. And that was on full display on Wednesday night when they dropped a road game to the Nuggets. They played so poorly during the game, especially on the defensive side of the ball, that LeBron called out his teammates and told them they need to develop more "toughness" if Cleveland has any chance of repeating as NBA champions this postseason.
So what happens now? Well, this isn’t the first time LeBron has publicly called his Cavaliers teammates out. In recent seasons, he’s gotten into the habit of telling his fellow players when they’re playing poorly and demanding more out of them. And they always seem to react to it a little bit differently. With the most recent example of this on full display, we decided to take a quick look back at the times LeBron has called the Cavs out to see how they’ve responded to it…
"You Motherf*ckers Want to Play?"
What LeBron said: After the Cavs fell behind the Knicks by seven points at halftime, LeBron gathered his guys at the start of the second half and asked, "You motherfuckers want to play?"
How the Cavaliers responded: They pulled away from the Knicks in the second half to win.
"We’re Not a Great Team Right Now"
What LeBron said: After an early season loss to the Bucks, LeBron lit into his team for buying into the hype surrounding them. "We’re not a great team right now," he said. "I think we’re a good team. I think we expect we’re a great team, and we’re not. We have to get better in every facet of the game, and that’s every single facet of the game."
How the Cavaliers responded: They lost a game three days later to the Pistons. Which brings us to…
"We Haven’t Done Anything"
What LeBron said: After losing a second consecutive game, this time to the Pistons, LeBron reiterated some of the same points he made after the previous game. "We haven’t done anything," he said. "We didn’t win anything. We lost. We lost in the Finals. So that’s enough motivation for myself. I think we need to understand that. Like, we lost in the Finals. We didn’t win. And the team that beat us looks more hungry than we are. So it shouldn’t be that way."
How the Cavaliers responded: They returned home to beat the Bucks in their next game.
"It’s Either You Got It or You Don’t"
What LeBron said: After the Raptors outscored the Cavaliers 31-16 in the third quarter to win at home, LeBron questioned his team’s mental toughness. "It’s all mindset," he said. "It comes from within. I’ve always had it; my upbringing had me like that. It’s either you got it or you don’t."
How the Cavaliers responded: They won their next two games against the Hornets and Nets before dropping three games in a row.
"Who Else Was Going to Do It?"
What LeBron said: After LeBron took 17 shots and scored 23 points in the fourth quarter and overtime of a loss to the Pelicans, LeBron was asked about why he decided to take over the game. "Who else was going to do it?" he said in response.
How the Cavaliers responded: They lost their next game to the Heat before rebounding to win six games in a row.
"Hopefully I Only Have to Say Something Once"
What LeBron said: After the Cavaliers beat the 76ers in a preseason game, LeBron was forced to pick up dirty laundry some of his teammates left behind. He asked his teammates not to leave a mess like that again. "Hopefully I only have to say something once," he said. "Can’t leave the locker room like that."
How the Cavaliers responded: They must have started to put their laundry away, because LeBron hasn’t mentioned it since.
"We Top-Heavy as Sh*t"
What LeBron said: After the Cavaliers lost to the Pelicans, their second loss in a row, LeBron called out the entire Cavaliers organization and said changes needed to be made. In doing so, he alluded to the fact that they didn’t have enough talent on their team. "It’s like when you don’t have bodies," he said. "It’s tough. The fucking grind of the regular season. We’re a top-heavy team. We have a top-heavy team. We top-heavy as shit. It’s me, [Kyrie Irving], [Kevin Love]. It’s top-heavy."
How the Cavaliers responded: They lost their next game before winning 10 of 12 games after that. They also added several new players to the team over the next month to set themselves up for the playoff run they're making right now.
How will the Cavaliers respond this time around? TBD. But more often than not, things seem to work out well for the Cavaliers when LeBron speaks up. And with games against the Wizards, Spurs, Pacers, and Celtics on the horizon, they’re going to need for them to work out again in the coming weeks.