It’s been almost exactly six months since then-Grizzlies defender extraordinaire Dillon Brooks elected to “poke bears” during the team’s first-round playoff matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers. The “bear” to which Brooks referred to, of course, was none other than LeBron James, arguably the greatest basketball player of all time.
We all saw how that went.
At the time, James elected to take the high road and not engage with Brooks. He left fans, the media and the Grizzlies with a simple message:
“I don’t want to talk about this more,” James said prior to Game 3. “Tomorrow’s gonna be a great game, I’m not here for bulls—, I’m ready to play and that’s it.”
The Lakers took three of the next four games, including a 40-point win in the clincher, to advance to the Western Conference semifinals, helping send the Grizzlies packing.
James and the Lakers faced similar criticism in the conference finals against the Denver Nuggets, whose head coach Michael Malone took multiple opportunities to suggest a bias in coverage toward the glitzy Los Angeles team. After the Nuggets completed a sweep of the Lakers, Malone went on The Pat McAfee Show and seemed to mock James, who had hinted at retirement following the playoff loss.
“Speaking of the Lakers, I just want you guys to know this is breaking news,” Malone said. “I’m thinking about retiring. Only kidding, only kidding.”
In response, James seemed to address Malone in an Instagram post, though he didn’t name the championship winning coach specifically: “In Europe for the last past few weeks minding my business and I hear I’m on your mind that much huh??? I mean I guess I see why. But Wave the flag on these lames!! Please make being player cool again cause the lame machine is at an all-time high. Enjoy your light but just know I’m the SUN. I stay on forever!”
James hopes that his sunlight stays on for at least one more season, as the Lakers look to build off of the 18-8 record they put up after the trade deadline last season. Their first test will come against Malone and the Nuggets in the opening game of the 2023-24 NBA season on Tuesday night in Denver.
Asked if there is a time when he will forego the high road and respond in kind to trash talk, James contemplated slightly before making a cryptic promise:
“I don’t know. There will be a time,” James said. “When that time is, I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s now, or — there will be a time. There will be a time when everybody will get it.”
For a player with such legendary accolades, including becoming the NBA’s all-time leading scorer last season, James has endured relentless criticism throughout his 21-year career. At age 38, he appears to be in great shape entering this season after putting up averages of 28.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 6.8 assists last year.
He usually lets his game do the talking, but it looks like we’ll get to see James bark back sharply sooner or later.