Lakers legends show LeBron how hot the stage can really get in Los Angeles

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Trouble in purple and gold paradise.

Trouble in purple and gold paradise.
Image: Getty Images

I’m not here to defend LeBron James. As recently as two weeks ago, I gave him shit for chasing the scoring title because it’s the only thing he can win this year. James also has enough obsessed, annoying fans willing to defend him by any memes possible, and this pitiful Lakers team was a failure of his own creation.

His detractors have been out en masse like North Carolina fans dancing on Coach K’s corpse. And now, he’s catching shit from Lakers legends.

Magic Johnson went on First Take to blame him for the team opting to go the route of Russell Westbrook in lieu of DeMar DeRozan. And in since-taken back comments at a ceremony honoring Carmelo Anthony’s social justice efforts, Kareeem Abdul-Jabbar, who the award is named after, said James should “be embarrassed” for his social stances.

First, here’s Johnson on what the Lakers would have looked like with DeRozan and some delusional shit about how the team subsequently could’ve kept Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, traded Kyle Kuzma for Buddy Hield, signed DeRozan and made the Western Conference Finals.

Now, here’s Abdul-Jabbar scorching the Earth with James’ social stances (per ESPN).

“Some of the things he’s done and said are really beneath him, as far as I can see. Some of the great things that he’s done, he’s standing on both sides of the fence almost, you know? It makes it hard for me to accept that when he’s committed himself to a different take on everything. It’s hard to figure out where he’s standing. You’ve got to check him out every time.”

He expanded on that point (via the LA Times).

“I admire the things that he’s done that have gotten all our attention. Sending a whole school to college? Wow. That’s amazing. His thoughtfulness and willingness to back it up with his wallet, you got to give him credit for that.

So I’m not throwing stones. I just wish he wouldn’t — you know, some of the things he’s done, he should be embarrassed about. That’s just where I’m coming from.”

While Abdul-Jabbar walked back those comments, it’s not the first time the all-time leading scorer has taken issue with James. He went in on James doing the Sam Cassel “Big balls” dance, saying GOATs don’t dance. It’s a take right out of dads’ mouths everywhere. I’m surprised he didn’t drop an, “Act like you’ve been there,” too.

James’ Spider-Man meme was regrettable, and he should know that the only people who can joke about COVID are sparsely read columnists. A friend and I once debated in a column if we had COVID or were just hungover in the days before writing about COVID was the most depressing thing on Earth. (I can’t and won’t defend James’ vaccine hesitancy, though. He’s going to tell me that he vets the millions of dollars worth of shit he puts into his body every year to stay healthy?)

This is easily the most disappointing season in James’ 19 years in the league, and it’s magnified by playing in LA and playing for a team that’s bigger than him. I don’t know if it was James’ flirtation with other franchises and GMs at All-Star Weekend or the hapless state of the franchise, but he can’t even get cover from the guy who put him in purple and gold, or one of the more thoughtful people who has ever passed through the NBA.

Do Magic and Kareem not know that James is one of the most insulated players the game has ever seen? He has yes men for his yes men. Instead of competing against his friends, he played with them. Shrewd moves and stellar play have kept him from taking shit from his own organization.

This is the first time I can remember team legends taking shots at James while he’s still a member of the franchise. Pat Riley waited until after James left to say he was pissed. (So did Dan Gilbert — but he’s less of a team legend and more of an entitled brat moonlighting as an NBA owner.)

I guess my question in all of this is what’s the point?

Abdul-Jabbar is probably looking for content to wring an angle out of like the rest of us who write “essays” for a living, and his commitment to the take supersedes his love of his former team. (My guy, if it comes out on a website, by definition it’s a post. An essay was something you printed out and handed in during Honors Lit in high school.)

Johnson is even more off base for myriad reasons, the most glaring of which is that this fantasy roster with DeRozan, Caldwell-Pope, Caruso, Hield, James, and Anthony Davis was a logistical impossibility. It’s like saying the Warriors should’ve kept Kevin Durant and traded Quinn Cook and Jonas Jerebko for Joel Embiid.

Additionally, Magic, are James and Davis healthy in this alternate reality where Los Angeles is primed for a deep postseason run?

Regardless of the two Laker greats’ intentions, the only thing publicly taking shots at LeBron is going to do is further piss him off. (Johnson clearly doesn’t give a shit about Westbrook either, because the guard took collateral damage by virtue of being treated like a problem child no one wants to take responsibility for.)

I doubt James is going to leave LA because his life is there now. I just wonder who is going to willingly join this circus, or trade for an overpaid point guard getting blamed for this train wreck of a season. Davis is beyond frustrated with his health situation, and Westbrook treats every news conference as if he’s being subjected to an intervention, but sure let me take a discount to be the next scapegoat.

If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the Lakers.

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