OAKLAND, Calif. — LeBron James faced a defining moment Monday night in what has been a career marked by greatness but littered with many more losses on the big stage than wins.
As the Cavaliers tried to extend the NBA Finals to a sixth game, the spotlight was squarely on James to see how he would respond to all the criticism he received from Warriors players, their family members and his peers on Twitter for his role in Draymond Green’s suspension for Game 5.
Green wasn’t allowed in the building for the game. He watched it from a suite at the A’s game in the stadium next door to Oracle Arena.
In the heat of the moment late in Game 4, James knocked down Green and then stepped over him. Green flailed his arms while getting up and hit James in the groin.
James, who didn’t like what Green said to him, got angry and needed to be restrained. After the game, he urged the NBA to review the play. The league did and assessed Green a flagrant foul 1, resulting in an automatic one-game suspension because he has accrued four flagrant foul points this postseason.
The Warriors said James provoked Green by walking over him. Klay Thompson said James’ “feelings just got hurt” by Green’s words. Marreese Speights tweeted a picture of a baby’s bottle.
Former NBA player Mychal Thompson, Klay’s dad, said James “acts too entitled” and added that he couldn’t believe he complained to the media “about being called a name.” Ayesha Curry, Stephen Curry’s wife, took a swipe at James on Twitter. Other NBA players tweeted that James disrespected Green by stepping over him.
In Monday night’s Game 5, everyone found out that either it wasn’t smart to tug on Superman’s cape or that James’ feelings got hurt even more with a third straight loss in the Finals, the last two to the Warriors.
James has had a remarkable run. He has led his teams to six straight Finals, and seven overall, but has only two rings to show for it. He won’t let that define him, though.
“I don’t know if there’s anyone that’s been in the league and won a championship every single year they’ve been in the league,” James said. “Unless they played one year, won a championship as a rookie and then they retire.
“One thing I can say is that I’ve been blessed enough to be a part of seven Finals, and hopefully I’ll be blessed enough to play in many more even after this year, win, lose or draw.”
The Cavaliers were trying to become the first team to erase a 3-1 hole in the Finals and win the title. Thirty-two other teams tried and failed.
Even if the Cavaliers couldn’t do it, James said he will keep trying to bring a championship to Cleveland, indicating that he isn’t going anywhere as another free-agent summer awaits.
After spending four years with the Heat, James returned to Cleveland two years ago and played a big role in reshaping the roster to be a championship contender. Speculation is that if the Cavaliers come up short, they will try to move Kevin Love or Kyrie Irving in an effort to reload and improve Cleveland’s chances of winning it all.
“From a basketball standpoint, that’s one of the reasons why I came back, but it’s not the main reason I came back,” James said, citing his foundation and the ability to help children in the area where he grew up. “But from a basketball standpoint, that’s always been my goal since I was drafted in 2003. My goal was to bring a championship to Cleveland, and it hasn’t changed.
“When I left, my goal was to bring a championship to Miami. That didn’t change. And when I came back, it hasn’t changed.”
Notes & quotes: Grant Hill led an on-court moment of silence before the game to acknowledge the tragedy in Orlando.