HomeSportsFormer NBA Star Outlines the Difficulty of Being LeBron James’ Teammate

Former NBA Star Outlines the Difficulty of Being LeBron James’ Teammate

by Andrew Graham
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For all the winning and championship potential, being teammates with LeBron James isn’t always sunshine and roses. Take it from former Cleveland Cavaliers teammate J.R. Smith.

Infamous moments in the finals against the Warriors aside, being on the same squad as James can be taxing. The expectations and hope to parlay James’ presence into wins and a title are real — and heavy. Smith explained as such while talking with Bomani Jones on his HBO show, “Game Theory.”

“Honestly, it’s a gift and a curse with playing with Bron,” Smith said. “I love Bron to death and I loved playing on his team because, for me, I feel I thrived more under the pressure.”

Smith explained more about the press of playing with James

Smith, of course, earn infamy for not attempting a put-back shot on a missed free throw in the 2018 Finals against Golden State. But outside of that singular moment, Smith’s on-court work was generally quite solid alongside James.

He was a double-digit scorer in the regular and postseason for the 2015-16 champion Cavaliers. And he later teamed up with James in 2020, winning an NBA title with the Lakers in the bubble.

But one way or another, when one is teammates with James, Smith said, others judge performance a certain way. The paradigm is less about individual achievement. Instead, accomplishments get filtered through the lens of helping or hurting James win games and championships.

“But a lot of guys don’t like it because it can go one of two ways: It’s either, what did you not do to help him win? And, who else didn’t help to not help him win?” Smith said.

And not everyone can get put under the microscope like that and handle it.

“It’s always gonna be that supporting cast of who’s not doing what, and if you’re not built for that, not made for that, it’s gonna eat you alive,” Smith said.