The Los Angeles Lakers are facing more pressure than any other team in the league. With 17 titles to their name and a permanent position under the media spotlight, the Purple and Gold will always be a franchise burdened with heightened expectations.
As one of the greatest players in basketball history, LeBron James has to juggle his own pressure and there's no denying that it's one of the hardest aspects of his career.
This season, for example, many are blaming James for L.A.'s disappointing start. As FOX Sports analyst Skip Bayless explained on Undisputed, he did have a hand in putting the team together, after all.
“I’m going a 100% LeBron, because you know and I know the buck stops there, with No. 6,” Bayless said. “He should have 100% say and 100% blame over this. You know and I know, if he had said no, it’s not going to happen.
“Nobody can say no to [LeBron] in this franchise because he does run it, because he earned the right to run it... I said this was gonna be a disaster. Now, I sit back and say, I’m sure he hasn’t given up on it yet, because we’ve still got a long ways to go. But we see the handwriting and the reports that they’re having internal discussions about, ‘How can we get out from under this?’ … I just think it’s virtually impossible."
Still, whatever amount of blame you cast on James, the fact is that he's not doing it alone. Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook are his co-stars, and some of the responsibility falls on them as well.
Interestingly, Skip proposed that Westbrook will actually serve as some sort of scapegoat for the King.
"I said this was gonna be a disaster, Bayless continued. “Now, I sit back and say, I’m sure he hasn’t given up on it yet, because we’ve still got a long ways to go. But we see the handwriting and the reports that they’re having internal discussions about, ‘How can we get out from under this?’ … I just think it’s virtually impossible.”
"I told you from the start, I believe LeBron looked at this two ways, it’s the two-edged sword. He said, ‘If I can pull this off with Russ’ — and maybe he still believes he can — he’s saying, ‘If I can pull this off, I’ll show the whole NBA world I did something nobody thought I could do.’ If it doesn’t work out, Russ is obviously a lightning rod for criticism. … The GOAT always needs a scapegoat. Russ can be the ultimate scapegoat. If this thing goes south you just say it’s his fault and everybody will agree.”
In truth, Westbrook's complicated history does make him the perfect fall guy for the Lakers. His flaws and stubbornness have long been considered to be detriments, so it's not hard to imagine that Russ will be the main target of blame in the event of a Lakers' failure.
But by accusing LeBron of thinking that way, Bayless is proving that James is never safe from speculation and criticism. Wherever he is, wherever he plays, there are going to be those looking for a reason to condemn the 4x Champion.
Of course, as he has shown time and time again, he is more than willing and able to take the heat.