LeBron James was one of the very few players in the history of the league to get drafted directly from high school. Sure, entering the NBA as the most hyped prospect, a lot was expected out of the 19-year-old. However, no one could quite predict the type of impact the youngster would have as soon as he set foot on the hardwood.
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As a first-year, LBJ immediately became the leader of the Cavaliers franchise. In the 79 games the King played in the 2003-2004 season, he went on to average a staggering 20.9 points, 5.9 assists, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game. Apart from winning the Rookie of the Year honors, the prodigy even helped the Cavs improve their record from 15th in the East in 2002-2003 to 9th in 2003-2004.
“They need a completely new team around LeBron James”: Bill Walton
Despite being one of the best superstars in the league, James wasn’t surrounded by a group of players that would help the franchise win games.
Bill Walton, back in 2005, compared LeBron’s condition to the struggles Michael Jordan had to face during the early days of his career. While putting the then-Cavs forward among the all-time greats, Walton drew comparisons between Bron and Mike.
While mentioning the role Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, and the other Bulls had, the “Big Red” stated that James needed players who would do the dirty work for him. The Hall-Of-Famer further said:
“LeBron James is there right now. And what he’s doing is just so spectacular but it’s also sad and frustrating because LeBron has everything going for him – the talent, he reminds me so much of Michael Jordan in the early days of his career, playing out there by himself and his teammates are letting him down right now. They don’t have any team spirit, they don’t have any concept of playing together, any sort of flow and you see this guy, who’s just 20-years-old, doing things that you have really never been done and everybody else out there sort of scratching their head saying ‘what do we do?’
They need a completely new team around him. What you need are foot soldiers around LeBron to do all the dirty work. They need to rebuild the team in the mode that Michael Jordan had with guys like Pippen, Harper, Rodman, Kukoc, versatile players that can play all the positions. You don’t really have to worry about a big guy with LeBron because he can play the post, he can play everywhere.”
Bill Walton talking about LeBron in 2005.
It’s crazy that we’re still having the same conversation 18 years later. pic.twitter.com/2JHxaZnhpQ
— LeBron History 🏀 (@bronhistory) December 29, 2022
18 years later, Bill Walton’s words still stand true
Unfortunately, 18 years after his first assessment of LeBron and co., Walton’s words still stand true. The leader of the Los Angeles Lakers, LeBron is having a hard time winning games.
Even in Year 20, despite the King averaging 27.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game, Darvin Ham’s boys are placed 13th in the West with only a 14-21 losing record.
Walton’s 18-year-old advice of the front office required rebuilding the team and surrounding James with players who could do the dirty work, stands applicable even today.
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