LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — LeBron James says the secret to his success with Anthony Davis — as the first-year teammates now have the Los Angeles Lakers three wins away from the NBA title — is pretty simple.
“We’re not jealous of each other. I think that’s the best thing,” James said before Thursday’s practice, preparing for Game 2 of the Finals against the Miami Heat (Friday, 9 p.m. ET, ABC). “In professional sports, you have guys that join forces — you can call them alpha males. That’s what they call them. Two guys that have been dominant in a specific sport on their own respective teams, and they get together and they talk about how dominant they can be and they talk about this is going to be this and that. I believe jealousy creeps in a lot. And that is the absolute contrary of what we are.
“We know who we are. We know what we’re about. We want the best, seriously, every single day, both on and off the floor, for one another. We’re just not jealous of one another. I think that you align that with respect, I think the sky’s the limit.”
James and Davis’ chemistry started long before they were both in Los Angeles. Davis, while in high school, was a camper at James’ summer skills academy, and they teamed up in the 2012 London Olympics. Last season, with James playing alongside an inexperienced Lakers group and Davis starring for a middling New Orleans Pelicans squad, the two publicly pined for a trade to land Davis with the Lakers.
Davis said jealousy concerns “never crossed my mind” when the trade was completed last June, pairing him with one of the most famous athletes in the world.
“I’m not jealous of him, he’s not jealous of me. I think it shows on the court,” Davis said. “Obviously, that can always creep in when you’ve got, like you said, two alpha males on the same team. But I think when you’ve got two guys who are very selfless and want to win as bad as both of us want to, the rest of it goes away and just takes care of itself. Jealousy has never been a thing on our team from anyone.”
James’ description of his fit with Davis comes days after former teammate Kyrie Irving — whom James linked with to win a championship in 2016 and make three Finals appearances in three years before the point guard requested a trade out of Cleveland — seemingly took a shot at him on a podcast appearance.
On the debut episode of Kevin Durant’s new podcast, “The ETCs w/ KD,” Irving praised Durant as being a teammate he can trust as much as he trusts himself in late-game situations.
“One thing I’ve always been comfortable with is I felt like I was the best option on every team I played for down the stretch,” Irving said. “This is the first time in my career where I could look down and be like, ‘That motherf—er can make that shot too, and he’d probably do it a lot easier.'”
James, 35, told ESPN he was aware of Irving’s comments but declined to comment further.
Later Thursday, Irving posted a series of videos on Twitter in which he responded to the speculation he was taking a shot at James, referring to it as “false narratives.”
“Why must it always be brother against brother … why?” Irving said. “If I’m addressing anyone, I’ll say their name. Come on, y’all. Don’t listen to the false narratives. Let people live their lives! It’s just a game.
“You talk openly. You talk freely. But because we live in a clickbait society, it becomes something bigger. You don’t have to defend it. That’s just what media is. … It’s entertainment. I’m not going to let it put me against anybody anymore, at any point. Because that’s not what it’s about. … Don’t have to put me against anyone else! It’s never been about that. It’s about the love. Peace.”
In some ways, Davis, 27, is supplanting Irving as the most impressive teammate of James’ career. Before Davis averaged 29.1 points per game this postseason, the most a teammate of James ever averaged in the playoffs was Irving’s 25.9 points per game in 2017, followed by Irving’s 25.2 points per game in 2016, followed by Dwyane Wade’s 24.5 points per game in 2011.
The Lakers have outscored opponents by 15.9 points per 100 possessions when James and Davis share the court this postseason. The best James and Irving ever did was plus-12.7 points per 100 possessions in the 2017 playoffs.
Of course, James and Irving became the first pair of teammates ever to score 40-plus points together in a Finals game in Game 5 in 2016, and Irving nailed the game-sealing 3 in Game 7 that year.
There is no denying their success together, but it wasn’t always easy. The Athletic reported in the months following Irving’s trade to the Boston Celtics that Irving’s father, Dred, told his son he purposely did not associate himself with James’ longtime friend and then-Cavaliers employee Randy Mims because he didn’t want to be “fraternizing with the enemy.”
James and Davis, however, have found a common ground. To wit, in Thursday’s news conference, James described his game thus: “I have no weakness, offensively or defensively, to where if I can read a defense, I can exploit it. I can put myself in a position to be successful.” However, when Davis spoke later, he said he has latitude to point out James’ flaws.
“We hold each other accountable. When we watch film or even during the course of a game, if I did something wrong, he tells me. If he does something wrong, I tell him,” Davis said. “I think that’s what makes it work, knowing that we trust one another to make reads, to make calls. We’re able to talk to one another.”
There is one thing James has that Davis admits makes him jealous, however.
“He has a ring,” Davis said. “Hopefully I don’t have to be envious of that much longer. I want a ring, and he has three of them. That would be the one thing for sure that I would be jealous about.”