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"If I wanna make the Finals, I can't be in LeBron's conference" - Nick Wright speculates LeBron James' LA Lakers move in 2018 made Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler and Kyrie Irving move to Eastern Conference

LeBron James 6 of the Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James 6 of the Los Angeles Lakers
ANALYST

Do NBA players fear LA Lakers superstar LeBron James or not?

ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith may have started the conversation earlier this week. But JJ Reddick, a longtime shooting guard who recently joined ESPN as an NBA analyst, fired back at Smith on "First Take," dropping the "I played against him" card to emphasize his point.

On "First Things First," the issue was also raised, and another commentator, Nick Wright, quickly disputed NBA writer and analyst Chris Broussard's similar take. Broussard said he believes players around the league respect LeBron James but do not fear him. To counter that, Wright may have produced a better counterargument, saying:

"You can say you're not afraid of a grizzly bear, but if you see one walking down the path and you run in the other direction, then you're afraid. And what we have seen, for the league as a whole over the last dozen years, is guys run away from LeBron. They can't play with LeBron, they run as far as they can."
"Oddly, around 2019 something happened. Everyone started going East. Kevin Durant, all that success out West, 'Let me go East.' Jimmy Butler, 'I can go anywhere I want, let me stay East.' Kyrie Irving, 'I can go anywhere I want, let me stay East.' James Harden, 'I've been in the West let me force my way...' where do you wanna go? 'Philly or Brooklyn, I don't care, somewhere out East.'"

Wright continued:

"So, what was the moment? Oh ... LeBron went East to West, so the league as a whole was like, well, if I wanna make the Finals, I can't be in LeBron's conference, so let me go to the other one. So, don't tell me you're not scared. Show me you're not scared."
"You can say you're not afraid of a grizzly bear but if you see one walking down the path & you run in the other direction, then you're afraid. Over the last dozen years, if guys can't play with LeBron they run as far as they can." β€” @getnickwright https://t.co/Xdm81Xo1Sc

Wright gave kudos to Carmelo Anthony and Kawhi Leonard for their willingness to compete against LeBron James and not move to an opposing conference.

Anthony was the centerpiece of the Denver Nuggets for his first eight seasons before joining the New York Knicks of the Eastern Conference in 2010-11, while James led the Miami Heat and then the Cleveland Cavaliers. And Anthony played for the Portland Trail Blazers, in the West, the previous two seasons before joining James this season.

Leonard won an NBA title with the San Antonio Spurs, of the Western Conference, in 2013-14, then led the Toronto Raptors, of the Eastern Conference, to the championship in 2018-19 before moving on to the Clippers for the past two seasons.

James, a four-time NBA champion, has been with the Lakers since the 2018-19 season.

"The only guy that was like, 'I wanna go up against LeBron; I will follow him East,' was Carmelo. And the only guy who followed him West was Kawhi. That's it. Everyone else, crisscross."

Seeing as LeBron James made the Finals for eight consecutive years from 2011-2018, players understandably might have opted to switch conferences to give themselves a better chance at competing for the title.


Can LeBron James lead the Lakers to another NBA Finals appearance?

LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates in the 124-116 OT win against the Indiana Pacers
LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates in the 124-116 OT win against the Indiana Pacers

James is trying to get the Lakers (10-10) back to the NBA Finals for the first time since they won the title in 2019-20 . According to former NFL star and current television analyst Keyshawn Johnson, you should never count LeBron out until it is over.

And while that may be the case, the pieces around James need to be better. The Lakers went in search of veterans in the offseason, players who can keep the offense going without James. But so far, the Lakers are ranked 24th in offensive rating and 19th in defensive rating.

The Lakers' gamble in the offseason was in trading away young assets who provided depth while stocking the roster with veterans who had proven careers but also have a lot of mileage (like Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook, Dwight Howard, Trevor Ariza and DeAndre Jordan) around James and Anthony Davis.

James is averaging 24.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.9 steals per game. In the Lakers' last outing, a 124-116 overtime win Wednesday night at the Indiana Pacers, he showed just how crucial he is, knocking down three incredible shots in overtime to steal the win.


Also Read: Who are Kyrie Irving's Kids?


Edited by Joseph Schiefelbein
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