The one game in LeBron James’ career that he came off the bench
The Los Angeles Lakers made a big splash this offseason by bringing in the one-of-a-kind talents of LeBron James. There’s no disputing the fact that he will be the Lakers’ main man as he is expected to be inserted into the starting frontcourt, possibly in the 3 or 4 slot, and possibly in the center position.
A situation where James would come off the bench is strange and completely unheard of. However, after missing games due to an injury to his finger, James eyed a return in a home game against the Indiana Pacers on December 10, 2007.
Cleveland sportswriter Tom Withers gave his take on that game that happened 11 years ago:
“James checked in with 5:59 left in the first quarter and the Cavs leading 15-11. He entered with Hughes and forward Anderson Varejao, who was making his season debut after ending a contract holdout last week by signing a three-year, $17 million contract.”
Aside from the fact that he was coming off an injury, then Cavs coach Mike Brown was looking on putting his superstar back on the starting five. But actually, it was LeBron who convinced his coach to let him come off the bench this time. Here’s why:
“James said he requested that coach Mike Brown bring him in off the bench to offset any negative reaction toward Varejao, who during messy on-and-off negotiations said he didn’t want to play for Cleveland again.”
It can be recalled that long-time versatile center Anderson Varejao went back and forth with the Cavaliers because of a contract dispute. It came to the point that he didn’t want to play a minute for the team again, and this attracted a lot of negativities and criticisms from the fans.
“I thought it would raise the intensity of the fans, having me, Larry and Andy come in at the same time — and it worked,” James said. “I thought by coming in with Andy it might stop some of the boos Andy might get, just protecting my teammates.”
James has been known to have great relationships with teammates and has carried them on his back for most nights. This game was a testament to LeBron’s team-first mentality as he protected Varejao from being booed by the hometown fans. LeBron had 17 points in that Cavaliers’ win against the Pacers.
Of the 1143 games that he played in his career, that night was the only game that James came off the bench.
Just recently, LeBron’s buddy Carmelo Anthony has signed a deal with the Houston Rockets, joining forces with Chris Paul and 2018 MVP James Harden. Interestingly, there were talks that the Rockets will look into putting Melo in a sixth-man role, something that the 10-time all-star has never done in his career.
Anthony has started all 1054 games that he played in the entirety of his stay in the NBA. If that Rockets’ strategy is indeed true, we’ll have to wait and see how the three-time Olympic gold medalist will react.