David Griffin on LeBron James: ‘You’re basically charged with the legacy of Babe Ruth’

Michael Lee: The Vertical NBA columnist – Yahoo Sports US , Jan 16, 2017, 9:37 AM


SAN FRANCISCO – The running joke about the Cleveland Cavaliers is that when he’s not humiliating opponents with chase-down blocks, setting up his teammates with those sweet-and-smooth-as-cheesecake passes and continuing to defy age with those gravity-defying dunks, LeBron James is also running basketball operations for the franchise. GM LeBron, as he is known to fans on social media and elsewhere, calls the plays and calls the shots – a characterization that should offend David Griffin, the man who is actually paid to do the job and has spent the past three years aggressively making the decisions to ensure that James is always positioned to win championships.

“I take offense to it on [James’] behalf at times,” Griffin told The Vertical. “He doesn’t like that image. I don’t think he wants that image. He wants to lead his troops. He wants to be a player. He wants to lead the guys from within. He never tried to do any more than that. I think for him, it’s almost an unfair characterization of him, that he’s some kind of overlord. That’s not at all what he does.”

James’ purpose is to collect championship rings, chase the seemingly untouchable ghost of Michael Jordan and leave the game having solidified his status – or at least be in the discussion – as the best to ever lace them up. Cleveland didn’t have an established tradition of success, and Griffin had only held his first general manager job for only five months before James decided to entrust his legacy to a championship-deprived franchise that had the upper hand mostly because it was closest to his hometown of Akron.

“I had about eight seconds of bliss and then several days of sheer terror,” Griffin told The Vertical of James’ arrival in the summer of 2014, “because it was, ‘Oh, thank God, he’s coming,’ to ‘Oh, my God, how do we win a championship?’ ”