What LeBron James Doesn't Understand About Laker Nation

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistJanuary 11, 2013

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 19:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat is guarded by Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers during a game at American Airlines Arena on January 19, 2012 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers might want to rethink the whole "let's chase LeBron James in 2014" blueprint they've laid out.

Why? Because he just doesn't understand this team.

His assertion that Los Angeles cannot even begin to fathom how difficult it was for the Miami Heat during the 2010-11 campaign has told us that much.

When approached about the Lakers and their current struggles, LeBron downplayed the gravity of the situation like he was being asked about a Division III badminton team. Via Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald:

No one will ever be able to compare what we went through. Even though they're not winning and they're losing a lot of games, it's still nowhere near what we went through.

Yeah, right. That level of magnitude was nowhere near where ours was two years ago. Nothing. Nothing compares to it.

Is he kidding? Nothing "compares" to what Miami had to go through two years ago? Nothing at all? Surely, he jests.

Except he doesn't.

James not only believes that the Lakers can't empathize with what his Heat had to go through, but he doesn't seem to think anyone ever will.

And he couldn't be more wrong.

With perhaps the exception of New York, there isn't a tougher market to play in than Los Angeles. And pertaining to the NBA, there isn't a more callous place to call home.

The Lakers organization is etched in a rich and illustrious history. Hollywood has a merciless reputation that is not to be forgotten—ever. Just ask Kobe Bryant. Five championships in, he'd be the first one to tell you that the Tinseltown faithful can be unforgiving.

In the City of Angels, they accept nothing less than perfection. Winning means nothing to this franchise or to its fanbase if it doesn't culminate in a championship.

Imagine playing under the weight of such expectations for nearly two decades, LeBron. Imagine having to carry the hopes of an entire organization that prides itself upon flawlessness like Kobe has. How does that not "compare" to your one year of inconvenient unpleasantries ?

That James could even display such ignorance, that he could even believe the "lights are not always brighter in Los Angeles" is perturbing.

Normally, I wouldn't dare diminish the disincentives he and his teammates have been forced to endure, but his misconception of Miami's arduous journey compared to others is inane. 

Ask Derrick Rose what it's like to play for the Chicago Bulls. Ask him what it's like to be expected to uphold the eminence that Michael Jordan established.

Then ask Carmelo Anthony what it's like to play for a New York Knicks fanbase that will turn on you with every missed shot, every misconstrued word. Ask him what it's like to fail in a habitat that crucifies foibles.

Next, give Paul Pierce a call. Request that he recall a time when the Boston Celtics weren't expected to be great. He'll be speechless, because there isn't an answer.

And then take your tension-filled experience in Miami, combine it with the pressures of all the intelligence you've just received and then, maybe (just maybe) you'll understand what it's like to be a Laker. Because right now, you still don't.

At present, Kobe and crew are blinded by an unrelenting light. A light that won't disappear even if the Lakers manage to climb above .500. A brazen light that LeBron never even came close to seeing in Cleveland, and one he has yet to play under in Miami.

We're not even halfway through the first season of Los Angeles' superteam experiment and the Lakers have already gone through one coach, driven its current one to the point of base jumping, and witnessed their perpetual inclusion in the "absurdities" section of the rumor mill.

Everything the Lakers do is collated, dissected and interpreted from a legion of various landscapes. Even at the peak of the Big Three's inaugural campaign, James wasn't subject to that much scrutiny.

Bryant himself had to take to national television last month for reasons other than to broadcast a decision. He had to help quell the concerns of fans, pundits and probably teammates alike. He needed to be a voice of reason amidst an inundation of contradictory opinions.

Did James ever had to do that?

No, because he doesn't play for the Lakers; he doesn't play for a team that was supposed to dethrone a team like the Heat.

That's the standard the Lakers are held to every game of every season. And just because that's nothing new, it doesn't downplay the gravity of its importance and brutality. 

Nor does the notion that Los Angeles' current convocation was portrayed in a favorable light. LeBron's convoluted sentiments were (briefly) shared by Wade:

“Because of everything that happened in 2010 with offseason signings, it was, automatically, just a lot of negative things that was said about us,” Wade said. “[Los Angeles] didn’t go through that at the beginning. They didn’t go through anything negative about bringing those guys together, so ours started off bad and it stayed bad for a while, and then we got better.”

I'm sorry, but how does that make playing for Los Angeles any easier? 

It doesn't. If anything, it's worse. A lot worse.

The Lakers were embraced, yes, but knowing that their fans and even critics had such lofty expectations for them is one thing. Knowing that they're essentially sputtering, crumbling and subsequently failing on the heels of such expectations is another.

Remember, the Heat endured 20 games of ambiguity and resentment before being accepted as a legitimate force. From then on, although resentment still existed, it was clear they had turned a corner.

It hasn't worked that way for these Lakers. Not only have they not turned a corner, but their backs are still up against a wall. And against that wall they will stay—forever. That's the nature of the beast out in Los Angeles.

James' own teammate Wade wound up admitting as much. He eventually conceded that what players in Los Angeles face borders on the inconceivable, because it is. 

Playing for the Lakers means accepting that failure isn't an option and success is temporary. It dictates that you not necessarily understand but recognize that excruciating presumptions are the norm. It entails a working knowledge of the fact that nothing you do is ever going to be good enough.

"I don’t know if every player that comes through there understands what you’re getting yourself into when you walk through those Lakers doors," Wade had said.

And clearly, neither does LeBron.


*All stats in this article are accurate as of January 10, 2013.


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