Pressure has always been a thing in sports for as long as sports has existed.
The expectation of fans, teammates, owners, coaches and even the players themselves can all take a toll on a player's performance, either in a good way, with players relishing the oppotunity to prove all their haters wrong, or a bad way, with players shrinking in the spotlight when the stakes are at their highest.
The five players on this list will have the most pressure on them to perform next season, with the hopes of their fans, their owners, themselves, or even their own fathers pinned onto their shoulders. Here are the top 5 players under the most pressure heading into next season.
5. Lonzo Ball
The eldest of three sons to father LaVar, Lonzo Ball has finally fulfilled his wish of playing for the Los Angeles Lakers.
On draft night, LaVar promised that his son was going to lead the Lakers to the playoffs despite being in the highly competitive Western Conference. The haters will be looking to shut LaVar up and rub it in his face, hoping to see Lonzo fail in his rookie campaign. Lonzo not only has the daunting task of proving his dad right, but also has to prove all the doubters wrong as well if he doesn't want to be scrutinized by the media and fans alike.
4. Blake Griffin
Griffin chose to stay with the Clippers this offseason, signing a max contract worth $173 million over 5 years. After getting injured in back-to-back postseasons, and missing weeks of the regular season as well, Blake will have to prove that he can lead the Clippers to the playoffs without CP3 as his scapegoat for underachieving on a regular basis.
3. LeBron James
The Eastern Conference has just gotten significantly weaker with the departure of Paul George and Jimmy Butler to the West, and it seems LeBron will once again have a smooth ride to the Finals, even with the addition of Gordon Hayward to the Celtics. He's already lost the finals 5 times out of 8 tries. One more finals loss would make LeBron 3 of 9 in the finals. LeBron could possibly be forced to change location if this continues to happen.
He's already lost in the Finals 5 out of 8 tries. One more Finals loss would push LeBron to 3 out of 9 in the Finals. James could possibly be forced to change location if this continues to happen.
2. Chris Paul
CP3 chose to go to the Rockets this offseason with rumors swirling that he didn't like the way Doc Rivers prioritized his son by passing up a chance to trade for Carmelo Anthony. Now Paul has joined the same team that he lost a 3-1 lead to in the second round of the playoffs in 2015, the closest he's ever been to the Conference Finals.
Paul is headed into his 13th season, finally with an MVP-caliber teammate, and he has to show that he can finally get to the Western Conference Finals at least once in his career.
1. James Harden
After signing the biggest contract in NBA history despite his disengaged elimination game against the Spurs, where Harden only recorded 10 points along with 6 turnovers, he'll have to prove that he's worth every penny next postseason. If the Rockets want to go anywhere next year, Harden has to show up in the playoffs.
It also doesn't help that The Beard has come in second-best to both Curry and Westbrook in MVP voting in 2015 and 2017 respectively.