During Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue called out LeBron James. It may have been the spark the Cavs needed to win their first title.
On Thursday, Sports Illustratedannounced that James is James is the 2016 Sportsperson of the Year for his accomplishments on and off the court. To celebrate James's incredible year, SI's Lee Jenkins profiles the reigning NBA Finals MVP, highlighting his Ohio roots and the Cavs’ journey to a title.
In his story, Jenkins details an episode between Lue and James during June's Game 7 against the Warriors. Right before halftime, the Cavs trailed by three, and Lue decided to call out James during a timeout. And then he called him out again during halftime.
“Stop being so passive!” the coach barked. “Stop turning the ball over! And guard Draymond!” James’s numbers looked fine—12 points, seven rebounds, five assists—but he had unleashed a few sloppy passes and Draymond Green, his primary assignment, was 5 for 5 from three-point range. “Bron was mad, pissed off at me, and then we went into the locker room at halftime and I told him the same thing in front of all the guys,” Lue recalls. “He was mad again, pissed off again.”
After Lue finished, he saw James approach assistant coach Damon Jones in the locker room and overheard their exchange. “It’s messed up that T Lue is questioning me right now,” James said. The Cavaliers trailed by seven. The season was slipping.
“Everything I read all year is that you want to be coached, want to be held accountable, and trust T Lue,” Jones replied. “Why not trust him now?”
James was still rankled. He moved on to James Jones, his long-time teammate, who has ridden shotgun to the past six Finals. “I can’t believe this,” LeBron said.
“Well,” Jones responded, “is he telling the truth?”
Lue, ducking in and out of a back office, kept an eye on LeBron. “He stormed out of the locker room,” Lue says. The coach laughs as he tells the story. “I didn’t really think he was playing that bad,” Lue admits. “But I used to work for Doc Rivers in Boston, and he told me, ‘I never want to go into a Game 7 when the best player is on the other team.’ We had the best player. We needed him to be his best. I know he might have been tired, but f— that. We had to ride him. And he had to take us home.”