LeBron James has always been a polarizing player. It seems like his greatness is often taken for granted because of his losing record in the NBA Finals, and most old-school fans and players think he lacks the competitiveness and killer mentality of some former greats.
That's nothing new, as James has had to deal with that burden since his very first days in the league. As a matter of fact, he even talked to ESPN's Chris Broussard back in 2013 to discuss his so-called lack of killer mentality, claiming there are different ways to kill:
"When people think about the killer instinct, they always think of MJ and Kobe. Do people underestimate your killer instinct? People say you have it but not like those two. Do you think you have it like they do?" Broussard asked.
"Ahh. I'll just put it this way, man. There are different ways to hunt. I watch the Discovery Channel all the time, and you look at all these animals in the wild. And they all hunt a different way to feed their families. They all kill a different way. Lions do it strategically -- two females will lead, and then everybody else will come in. Hyenas will just go for it.
There are different ways to kill, and I don't think people understand that. Everybody wants everybody to kill the same way. Everybody wants everybody to kill like MJ or kill like Kobe. Magic didn't kill the way they killed. Does that mean he didn't have a killer instinct? Kareem didn't either. But does that mean Kareem didn't have a killer instinct? The same with Bird. That doesn't mean you don't have a killer instinct.
Tim Duncan don't kill like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, but I've played against Tim Duncan twice in the Finals and I know for sure he's got a killer instinct. So there are different ways to kill. MJ had a killer instinct for sure. But if people really think that MJ didn't talk to nobody and didn't smile on the court, they're crazy. They're crazy. I've seen him. I was watching a clip the other day of him blocking Charles Barkley, and they're laughing about the play -- on the floor. Right now, if I block Kevin Durant on the floor, or I block Carmelo Anthony and we laugh about it? Ahh, I'm going to get killed [laughing]. I'm telling you. But there are different ways of killing," the King replied.
Do you think you'll change people's minds about that?
I hope. I hope. I hope people will see that there are different ways of winning. And I win by … I don't want to say doing it my way. I am doing it my way but not in a selfish way. I want to win by having fun and having a brotherhood around me where we all have the same goals -- and that's just going out and winning, man.
When I'm having fun, I'm loving the game, and that's what brings joy to me. [Leans back and smiles] Every now and then my look comes out, though -- like Game 6 in Boston . People say, Why don't he do that all the time? [laughs] Man, I don't even … first of all, I have no idea why that look even happened. Somebody took a great photo. The camera was right on time, and he happened to get me when I was a little bit tired and I looked up. Bam! Now, it's The Look [laughs]. It's the LeBron Look. The LeBron Face [laughs]. It's cool, though. It's cool. Don't think for one second, though, that I'm not zeroed in on what I need to get done to kill my prey.
Unlike Jordan, Bryant, or other former great scorers, James has always thrived as a playmaker. That's why he's trusted his teammates in clutch situations throughout his career. Nevertheless, it's normal to wonder why he'd pass on a good shot considering he's also one of the greatest players of all time. Those who came behind him would never pass on the chance to win the game by themselves.
Luckily for him, it seems like James has turned the page a bit on that narrative ever since and he started being more aggressive and taking more chances towards the following years of his career. Contrary to what his doubters may seem, he's got 5 buzzer-beaters in playoffs history, which is a league-best.