LeBron James was apparently as surprised as anybody to hear David Griffin’s frank assessment of his time as the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ general manager.
“Everything we did was so inorganic and unsustainable and, frankly, not fun. I was miserable,” Griffin said in an interview with Sports Illustrated‘s Jake Fischer. “Literally the moment we won the championship I knew I was gonna leave. There was no way I was gonna stay for any amount of money.”
ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reported Thursday on The Jump he had reached out to James’ camp, who was “shocked” to see Griffin’s comments.
McMenamin also said Griffin and James had “maintained a very positive relationship” since Griffin left during the 2017 offseason, which made his comments to Fischer even more surprising.
Griffin had a few critiques directed specifically toward James as well.
He questioned whether the four-time MVP is “the same animal anymore about winning” after helping guide the Cavs to a title in 2016 and offered one reason why building around James isn’t as easy as it sounds: “The reason is LeBron is getting all the credit and none of the blame. And that’s not fun for people. They don’t like being part of that world.”
Griffin had already gone on the record explaining why James put Cleveland in a difficult position from a roster perspective. Since James opted for short-term contracts with the Cavs, the front office was forced to leverage draft picks for proven veterans and basically put player development on the back burner.
His more pointed evaluation of James doesn’t seem too wide of the mark either.
Playing with James isn’t easy because of the large shadow he casts, and his ability to attract marquee talent appears to be declining as he ages. Although Anthony Davis forced his way to the Los Angeles Lakers, Kyrie Irving requested a trade out of Cleveland in 2017, while Paul George and Kawhi Leonard declined the opportunity to join LeBron in L.A. in each of the last two summers.
The Cavaliers don’t win a championship without James. His presence, however, placed a level of pressure—both indirect and direct—on the team that made life difficult for his teammates and others in the organization.
That was a compromise Cleveland was willing to make—a tradeoff that obviously proved successful—when James was the NBA‘s best player.