Over the last few seasons, a narrative has taken form insisting that many NBA players, especially superstars, do not want to be teammates with LeBron James. It started with Kyrie Irving’s request to be traded from the Cleveland Cavaliers and continued with Paul George spurning the Lakers and reports of Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler preferring other destinations.
“So much hype comes from being around LeBron from other people,” Durant said. “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 depends on what kind of player you are,” Durant said. “If you’re Kyle Korver, then it makes sense. Because Kyle Korver in Atlanta was the bulk of the offense, and he’s not a No. 1 option at all, not even close. So his talents benefit more from a guy who can pass and penetrate and get him open.
“If you’re a younger player like a Kawhi, trying to pair him with LeBron James doesn’t really make sense,” he added. “Kawhi enjoys having the ball in his hands, controlling the offense, dictating the tempo with his post-ups; it’s how he plays the game. A lot of young players are developing that skill. They don’t need another guy.”
A lot of what Durant is saying strikes true. James is the best player in the world and naturally imposes a kind of gravity for members of the media. As such, playing alongside the King may result in side effects that some players may not be comfortable with.
Nevertheless, it does appear to be at least somewhat of a forced narrative. The Lakers with James have only whiffed on one free agent thus far. Kevin Love, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all had plenty of success alongside James even while drawing much scrutiny from the media during their low points.
The upcoming summer will go a long way into dispelling or reinforcing this narrative with Durant holding the potential for both. KD himself was an exception to his own comments as a first-option in OKC who signed with the Warriors to play alongside another global superstar in Stephen Curry. Whether that means he would be more likely to sign with a team where he could once again be the clear-cut first option remains to be seen. More importantly, the Lakers will have a chance to court several star free agents this summer and James’ presence will be the number one selling point.
At the end of the day, LeBron is the best player in the world with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Playing alongside him means having to deal with criticism from all angles. It also means having a high chance of putting up career numbers, getting paid and becoming a champion.