Down in New Orleans on Sunday night, LeBron James and Zion Williamson put on an absolute show, and showed both the present and the future of the league is in good hands. “The King” finished with 34 points, 12 rebounds and 13 assists to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 122-114 win despite Williamson’s career-high 35 points and seven rebounds.
After the final buzzer, the two stars shared a few words and an embrace on the court. What LeBron actually said to the rookie remains a mystery, but at his locker, he shared a few thoughts on his place in the league and the impact he’s trying to have on future generations of players.
LeBron’s full comments:
It’s my obligation, it’s my job to continue to pass on the game to the guys that’s coming in after me. That’s just my responsibility. No one told me to do that, I just feel like it’s my responsibility to leave the game in a better place than when I had it. And when you see the class of guys that’s in our league right now — I mentioned Ja last night, you mention Zion tonight, you see Trae Young, you see Luka Doncic, you see Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell — you just see all these guys, all these young guys, the league is in a very good place.
And if I’m able to give my wisdom, the game, pass it down while I’m playing or after I’m playing, I feel like it’s my job. The game has given me so much since I started playing when I was eight years old, so it’s my responsibility. And anybody that says, ‘LeBron, why would he do that while he’s playing? It’s a sign of weakness, you know, it’s buddy-buddy with the guys he’s going against.’ Tell them to kiss my a–, all right? With a smile, too.
This generation’s players being too friendly with their opponents is a somewhat common refrain in some parts of the basketball community, but to be honest it’s not clear exactly who was criticizing LeBron for sharing wisdom with Williamson or other young players.
In any case, anyone offering those sort of comments isn’t worth listening to. For one, LeBron destroyed Williamson and the Pelicans on the floor, and then shared the moment with his competitor after the game was over. It’s not like he was just hanging out and joking with the rookie during the middle of the game.
Plus, this is exactly the kind of legacy great players should be creating. As much as winning matters, so does leaving the league a better place, and LeBron is doing that not only by pushing the limits of what players can achieve on the floor, but off it as well. He had to figure out a lot of that on his own, and making it easier for other players to follow in his footsteps should be celebrated, not condemned.