Although it might not have been as crazy as the Miami Heatles years for LeBron James, his second go with the Cleveland Cavaliers definitely had its tumultuous moments with David Griffin at the helm as general manager.
To be fair, that was mostly due to having LeBron James on the team, as having arguably the most popular athlete in the world on your team brings extra pressure. He doesn’t help it too much either, evidenced in situations such as the time he posted THAT Arthur meme, or the time he tweeted the following:
Stop trying to find a way to FIT-OUT and just FIT-IN. Be apart of something special! Just my thoughts
— LeBron James (@KingJames) February 8, 2015
David Griffin, the current Executive President of Basketball Operations for the New Orleans Pelicans, talked about his new job as well as his time in Cleveland with Jake Fischer and Sports Illustrated. Griffin talked about his mindset towards the end of his final years in Cleveland, saying this:
“Everything we did was so inorganic and unsustainable and, frankly, not fun. I was miserable. Literally the moment we won the championship I knew I was gonna leave. There was no way I was gonna stay for any amount of money.”
Fischer documented the following story from Griffin, revealing some very soul-crushing details from how miserable Griffin really was towards the end, and how he knew about the pressure right away:
Griffin celebrated at first, then collapsed on his office floor in tears after James’ letter ran on SI.com, overwhelmed by the sudden pressure to deliver The King’s coveted ring. Noise around a superteam is deafening. It can cause combustible conditions. “The reason is LeBron is getting all the credit and none of the blame. And that’s not fun for people,” Griffin says. “They don’t like being part of that world.”
As champagne popped in the Cavs’ locker room, Griffin privately wept in an Oakland broom closet. A one-track mind had removed anything but delivering the city’s first championship in 52 years from consciousness. “I didn’t watch the league, and I didn’t love the game anymore,” Griffin says. “I was so fixated on outcome that I just totally lost my joy
It may be surprising to most that at the highest height that you can reach professionally as a basketball front office executive, David Griffin was sad, weeping in a broom closet while LeBron and the city of Cleveland way across the country relished in the city’s first professional championship since the 1964 Cleveland Browns.
But as I briefly discussed above, keeping LeBron James happy and surrounding him with a championship roster brings with it the most expectations possibly of any sports executive job ever. Griffin had to re-tool the team many times just to stay elite in the Eastern Conference, and as he mentioned, that “inorganic” environment just didn’t sit right with him. He seems much happier now in his situation with the Pelicans, saying that he’s “always wanted to raise a family at a team.” He will get that opportunity with Zion Williamson, Lonzo Ball, and Brandon Ingram within the core of his team.
David Griffin expanded more on LeBron James, saying he doesn’t see the same winning mentality in him anymore:
[Following the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 2016 championship] “There wasn’t a lot else for him,” Griffin says. “I don’t think he’s the same animal anymore about winning.”
Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated follows, by stating that many in the NBA world now believe LeBron prioritizes eventually playing with his son Bronny on an NBA team as well as the future possibility of owning his own franchise.
Look — I don’t know LeBron James personally. But I don’t think the man has come to where he has been, winning high school state championships, winning three rings, and playing in eight straight NBA Finals, to have his winning mentality falter with three years still left on his current NBA contract. I know the 2016 championship took a lot out of LeBron mentally and physically, but I just can’t say that arguably the best player in NBA history isn’t the same animal until he is literally out of the league.
Lakers fans shouldn’t be too upset about Griffin’s comments for two reasons. For one, everyone is entitled to their own opinions. That’s just life.
And second, Lakers fans should be excited for LeBron James getting some bulletin board material for this upcoming year. He really doesn’t need it, but it might bring an even more intense animal moving forward.