The Los Angeles Lakers secured a birth to the NBA Finals for the first time in 10 years, defeating the Denver Nuggets in five games.
Amidst the post-game celebration of their series-clinching win, LeBron James merely sat on the court as his teammates relished in the victory.
He failed to crack a smile and looked as if he had just been eliminated from playoff contention.
Though his behavior may have been mischaracterized as poor leadership, he clarified his actions on social media.
"Job Not Done"
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 27, 2020
James joined the Lakers back in 2018 with championship aspirations but failed to achieve postseason success in the last two years.
So while reaching the Finals is an accomplishment within itself, James’ “all-business” attitude was indicative of the motivation that continues to drive him.
A Moment of Reflection
As he took a seat on the court, James thought about his journey to his tenth NBA Finals appearance.
His initial thoughts were about Mike Malone, the head coach of the Denver Nuggets.
— Lakers Nation (@LakersNation) September 20, 2020
Malone worked with the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2005 to 2010, where he developed a close relationship with James.
“You guys know how much I love Mike Malone,” James said in his post-game conference. “He’s incredible, and he’s the reason why that team is so damn good. So I was thinking about that.”
The 17-year veteran also reflected on his teammates, many of whom have never gone this far in the playoffs.
“I was also thinking about some of my teammates who this is their first appearance in the Finals. Obviously, AD (Anthony Davis), had a lot of my thought process, and this is the reason I wanted to be a teammate of his and why I brought him here. I wanted him to see things he hadn’t saw before in this league. To be able to come through for him meant a lot for me personally.”
James also pondered about his next opponent, who had yet to be determined at the time.
“Then I started thinking about the next opponent. Boston had a few moments in my head, Miami had a few moments in my head, as well, how challenging that series is going to be, whoever wins that next series and how challenging that’s gonna be. And then I just started thinking about my journey as well. All that was going through my mind as the confetti was on the floor, coming down, landing on my shoulder, things of that nature.”
All that stands in the way of James and a fourth Larry O’Brien trophy is one of his former teams.
The Miami Heat defeated the Boston Celtics in six games, led by the likes of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.
In his illustrious 17-year career, James has made the Finals ten times, four of which came with the Heat.
But with a record of 3-6, James is all too familiar with coming up just short.
Perhaps he will finally crack a smile if he can bring the Lakers their 17th championship.