In the weeks since the Los Angeles Lakers went on a protracted slump following LeBron James’ groin injury in December, a number of players, coaches, basketball reporters, and league insiders have commented on what they think made everything fall apart for the organization. The latest to weigh in on the situation, however, happens to be one of the Lakers’ many celebrity fans — WWE superstar Roman Reigns — who opened up in a recent interview about his favorite NBA team’s struggles and their disappointing 2018-19 season.
As recapped by Bleacher Report, Reigns was the guest on Tuesday’s edition of ESPN’s First Take, where he talked about his battle with leukemia and his recent return to WWE after announcing he had gone in remission. The discussion also touched on Reigns’ favorite NBA and NFL teams — the Lakers and the San Francisco 49ers — as he commented on the Lakers’ inability to live up to expectations after they acquired James as a free agent in the summer of 2018.
According to Reigns, it’s been long assumed by fans that James’ arrival on an NBA team instantly assures them of an appearance in the NBA Finals. However, the 33-year-old wrestler stressed that it sometimes “[is] not fair” that people make this assumption, as it’s also important for LeBron’s teammates to do their part and help in the winning process.
“He’s had an unbelievable career, but it’s time that everybody around him steps up. He’s not a spring chicken, he’s not a young man anymore. He’s been doing it for a long time, grinding for many years, so I think everyone has to step up and step up to his level, but I think it goes on the team.”
"The truth is LeBron James is a basketball anomaly who has always challenged basketball’s conventional wisdom.
— The Undefeated (@TheUndefeated) March 27, 2019
While Roman Reigns’ take on the Lakers’ 2018-19 campaign can be summarized as saying that LeBron James’ mostly youthful teammates need to carry their weight, others have blamed the four-time NBA MVP for his team’s rough season, despite his continued dominance on the stat sheet. According to a separate Bleacher Report article from Eric Pincus, the drama surrounding Los Angeles’ unsuccessful negotiations to acquire New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis can be traced back to the 34-year-old James’ well-documented desire to play alongside a second superstar.
“He killed the [Lakers’] chemistry,” Pincus quoted an unnamed NBA executive as saying. “He shouldn’t have been so public about it. Even during the All-Star draft, he laughed about [wanting Davis to be his teammate].”
In addition to the perceived morale and chemistry issues that resulted due to several Lakers players getting linked to the Davis trade, injuries have also been mentioned as a key reason for the team’s struggles. Aside from James, whose strained groin kept him out for 17 straight games in December and January, forward Brandon Ingram and point guard Lonzo Ball were also ruled out for the season earlier this month due to their respective medical issues, as previously reported by ESPN.