LeBron James once came off bench to prevent teammate from getting booed
Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson doing his best impression of Kam Chancellor this summer has put the entire Cleveland franchise in an awkward position. But interestingly enough, it’s not entirely uncharted territory for Ohio overlord LeBron James. The four-time NBA MVP experienced a similar situation to that of Thompson, who is holding out as a restricted free agent for max money, with longtime teammate Anderson Varejao back in 2007.
A feature written by ESPN’s Dave McMenamin on Sunday shed light on how James once voluntarily came off the bench in a game nearly eight years ago to shield Varejao, who was playing in his first game back after lengthy holdout of his own, from the ire of the Cavs faithful.
It’s been nearly a decade since James last had a teammate go through such a contentious bargaining period. Anderson Varejao sat out until mid-December in the 2007-08 season before coming to terms with the Cavs on a new deal.
“I remember that,” James said. “I actually came off the bench when he came back, too, so he wouldn’t get booed. I came off the bench that game. I was coming back from injury and I told Coach [Mike Brown] to bring me off the bench so Andy wouldn’t get booed.”
It is the only game out of the 911 regular-season games James has played through his first 12 years in the league that he was not in the starting lineup.
Call King James a choker, a quitter, an egomaniac, or a power-hungry tyrant, if you must. But one thing you can’t accuse him of is being a bad teammate.
While Thompson’s situation is a bit different (especially with the media scrutiny and the massive discrepancy between his perceived worth and his actual value), James has gone to bat for the 24-year-old many times this offseason as well. Though James has been adamant that he’s done talking about the Thompson hubbub, his actions suggest otherwise. The two-time NBA champion even posted the following Instagram photo on Saturday with the caption: “Get it done!!!! Straight up. #MissMyBrother @realtristan13”
Thompson’s actions have already rubbed the Cavs fanbase the wrong way, and it looks like James may need to pull some more tricks out of his bag of benevolence yet gain upon the former No. 4 overall pick’s inevitable return to the team.