Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James is one of the best to ever play the game. He has multiple championships to his name, and now it seems as though he might take a different direction in the Sunshine state with regard to his career.
But just a decade ago, LeBron’s legacy was not so certain. In fact, James was a bit of a villain after the disaster that was “The Decision” and his new perceived persona with the Miami Heat.
That transition is the partial subject of a new book by Ian Thomsen, who appeared on a recent edition of Zach Lowe podcast to discuss some of the subjects at hand. Titled “The Soul of Basketball: The Epic Showdown Between LeBron, Kobe, Doc, and Dirk That Saved the NBA” Thomsen’s book has been getting excellent reviews, and based on his conversation with Lowe it certainly seems worthwhile.
One of the best excerpts that Lowe and Thomsen discussed was a story from Pat Riley about James subtly asking for the Hall of Famer to replace young Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
If you don’t remember the context, this rumored rift between LeBron and Spoelstra started when the Heat began the season just 9-8 in 2010. During a loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Nov. 27 of that year, LeBron was seen bumping into Spoelstra going into at timeout after Dirk Nowitzki hit a jumper over Chris Bosh to put Dallas up by double-digits late in the third quarter.
Here’s a quote from Lowe’s podcast, where Lowe is quoting a passage of Thomsen’s book that is spoken by Riley:
[I] asked how things were progressing. They just said, “We’re not feeling it, or something like that.” We talked about the typical things we have to do, have patience, all that stuff.
And I remember LeBron looking at me and he said, “Don’t you ever get the itch?”
And I said, “The itch for what?”
He said, “The itch to coach again.”
I said, “No I don’t have the itch.”
He didn’t ask any more questions and I didn’t offer any more answers but I know what it meant and I always go back and wonder what he was thinking at that time. He walked out scratching at his leg like it was itching.
The story that LeBron wanted Spoelstra out of Miami is not a new one. It was a rumor at the time a decade ago, and much as you might expect we have only come to see its verification some time later, with all concerned parties satisfied with their eventual result — two championships.
This is perhaps the best thing to come out of books like these. The inner workings of the NBA, often rumored, don’t come to light while players are still involved with parties they may take issue with. It’s only with the passage of time, and perhaps physical distance, that players and coaches are willing to speak with reporters to get the real story on record. That’s how we get to know about things like this, and it’s great.