LeBron James has been a household name since the day he stepped foot onto an NBA court in 2003. James was arguably the most hyped up high school prospect the world has ever seen.
With popularity comes a lot of expectations, and although he’s considered the “Goat”, he was only recently put into those conversations a few years ago. People tend to forget the seven year stint he had in Cleveland where he came up short every year.
The route James was going was a route similar to ones like Reggie Miller, Danny Granger, and nowadays Damian Lillard. Guys who wasted or are currently wasting their talent with a franchise that could never contend nor be taken seriously.
Never have I seen someone being put under brutal and senseless criticism due to a championship drought. I understand it at hindsight when we think about his talent level but he barely had the supporting cast to compete during his first seven seasons.
Mo Williams (13.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 4.9 asg)
Williams, at times, has proven to be the second option offensively in LeBron’s early days. Williams puttup 15.8 points on 5.3 assists in his three year span with the Cavs.
The Demise during this era in the early 2000s wasn’t on Mo’s shoulders. Although his assist numbers could’ve been a bit more healthy, the guy simply could put that ball in the basket.
Drew Gooden (11.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.1 asg)
With his 6’10, 250lb frame there wasn’t much Gooden couldn’t do, but somehow he was inconsistent throughout his tenure with Cleveland. Goodens 8.6 rebounds a game came solely on the defensive side of the ball and mostly came off of long rebounds. He wasn’t quick on his feet and his lackluster defense allowed more dominant bigs to have their way down low. His frame during that era proved to be effective but Gooden was average at best in that forward slot
Eric Snow (6.8 ppg, 2.5 rbg, 5.0 asg)
Snow wasn’t nearly as productive as many thought he was going to be. Coming out of Michigan State his numbers are similar to those of his pro career and needless to say there weren’t that many expectations put on him. Not to mention he hit his 30s when he got to Cleveland and managed to be a prominent starter during his time. Only highlight worth mentioning on his career is that he managed to play two straight seasons with no games missed.
Zydrunas Ilguaskas (13 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.1 asg)
Spending nearly his entire career with the Cavaliers the 7’3 giant consistently put up a solid 15 and 8 during his prime years. At times it was tough trying to establish position down low on offense and defense and being 238 lbs at 7’3 has its disadvantages, considering other big men had at least 20-40 lbs on Ilgauskas, along with having the speed and agility to beat him on the low block and on the perimeter.
You can’t blame him though as he left the only team he had ever known to join LeBron, Wade, and Bosh in Miami to try to win a championship. A sad way to go out after losing to the Mavs.
Shaquille O’Neal (12 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.5 asg)
With those numbers looking foreign to most of us, Shaq just wasn’t the right fit in Cleveland as he tried to team up with LeBron to make some noise. Knowing that he was at the dead end of his career, he was just a big body down low and relied on James to carry the load.
Carlos Boozer (16.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 2.2 asg)
Boozer made it a point to publicly criticize LeBron before he even stepped on the court stating “We have better players he’s nothing special”. He clearly didn’t see himself being a Cav as he only spent two years there but had a problem sharing the limelight with the High School sensation.
Daniel Gibson (7.8 ppg, 2 rbg, 2 asg)
Ahh yes Boobie Gibson! Any old heads know who this guy is. A guy who could never find his place in the lineup, Gibson struggled to be an effective player. He wasn’t a a known starter or even made that many appearances because he played behind Eric Snow some seasons and then Delonte West. He spent his entire career as a Cavalier. The 6’1 guard retired very early at age 26.
For those LeBron enthusiasts and haters, you would know that he didn’t have much help surrounding him. Given the track record there are plenty of role tier players who accompanied James in his early stages of his career.
The time for a championship with his level of talent has dwindled and these seven years made a lot of fans and analysts annoyed and uptight. When we think of that span of criticism, hate, and disrespect there’s a few things that need to be put into perspective.
Outside of Westbrook I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone work so hard in my life. Year after year he’s had to sacrifice for the benefit of the team, consistently workout throughout the whole offseason, and maintain a level head.
Busting your tail off on a team that expected you to be the best rebounder, scorer, passer, and defender is a lot to ask out of a player of any caliber. So when he made his departure to Miami I didn’t blame the man. Seven years of losing, being the best player in every lineup that was put onto the court, and working harder than the next guy can often take a toll on someone.
Generosity Towards Winning
From 2008-2012 LeBron took multiple paycuts to allow for other players to come in because the thought of winning weighed more than a dollar amount. If only that still existed today..ha.
Throughout his career he never looked to much into how much money he could make. The game was worth more to him than anything he could think of. That’s why you can clearly see his contract getting heavier towards his 30s. Which in retrospect you should want a thick contract at some point in your career because it’s going to end eventually.
At age 27 he won his first championship. He had to dig deep and really go after it even with two other superstars. The whole league was geared up and ready to attack and we saw that with the Mavericks just a year ago.
26.9 ppg 6.7 asg 7.5 rpg fg 57%
Throughout his 4 years with Miami, LeBron led the team in Points, Assists, and Rebounds and the only difference between the Cavs and the Heat is that the Heat had players to fall back on.
Chris Bosh (18 ppg 7.9 rpg)
Dwayne Wade (22 ppg, 5 asg)
It is clear as day that LeBron got the help he needed and a little weight was lifted off his shoulders.
As for the championship in Cleveland yes he had Kyrie but he pulled the majority of the weight that year and had games where he didn’t see the bench. You can criticize him about not winning all you want but the minute you start to question his work ethic is the minute you forgot everything you knew about LeBron James.