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After LeBron James became the first Los Angeles Laker to post three straight triple-doubles since Magic Johnson at the height of his powers in a comeback win against the Chicago Bulls, Anthony Davis jokingly referred to his teammate as the “Washed King,” according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.
“Washed,” James reportedly responded. “Super washed.”
Afterwards, James stamped the #WashedKing hashtag over a Twitter image of his accomplishment, leading to a bevy of coverage about the superstar owning the haters who called him washed up after a groin injury ended his 2018-19 campaign short of the playoffs and a ninth straight Finals appearance.
Only, there is zero evidence of anyone with a platform describing LeBron as washed — a term eloquently defined by the Urban Dictionary to mean, “You use to be the s--- now you ain’t s---.” And Skip Bayless doesn’t count, because he’s been calling LeBron some version of washed since age 18.
A Twitter search of “LeBron” and “washed” turns up too many responses from people saying something along the lines of, “NBA TWITTER SAID LEBRON WAS WASHED,” or, “And y’all tried to say LeBron washed,” that it is impossible to sort through and find out if any randoms actually called him washed.
Plug “LeBron” and “washed” into a search engine, and you will find pages upon pages of recent articles about LeBron calling out his critics for saying he’s washed. There are former teammates Kevin Love and Dwyane Wade respectively joking about LeBron calling himself washed and the haters who said he was. There is a bad Onion knockoff about Donald Trump saying LeBron James is washed up in a tweet that does not exist. There is an article wondering if LeBron will return to Cleveland when he’s washed. And there is a GQ article in which LeBron is asked if he would continue to play when he’s washed up.
“I don’t know if I can play washed,” LeBron answered, for the record.
There are 6,780,000 results, and while I can’t say I scrolled through all of them, I scoured enough to know that nobody of note actually called him washed. In fact, the only person I’ve ever heard of who referred to LeBron as washed is LeBron in a tweet from last December about his 8:30 p.m. bedtime.
The only known evidence of anyone publicly saying LeBron is washed comes from:
A Quora query in which one of the five respondents — a user named “Mercuso Brande, fan of both vintage and modern NBA,” who may or may not be a bot — answered in the affirmative to the question, “Is LeBron washed up or does he have a chance to lead another team back to the Finals?” The only response with more than a single upvote is from Tee Brown, who began his defense with, “No one who averages 27/8/8 in year 16 should be considered washed up yet.”
A Twitter user and Miami Heat fan who replied to a tweet from the Lakers after a February loss to the Atlanta Hawks by saying, “Washed up legends in a Laker jersey,” accompanied by pictures of LeBron, Karl Malone, Gary Payton and Steve Nash in the forum blue and gold. The bio for that Twitter user, @b_wilkinson99? “Tweeting for the lols don’t take most of my tweets seriously.”
A Reddit user and presumed Lakers fan named winter-r0se who wrote in a thread following a February loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, “lebron is washed now can’t even make layups. a sad end to his career really.” The same user soon clarified, “even though the spacing is truly God awful, lebron is lebron at the end of the day. there’s something off with him even ignoring the rest of the team. he doesn’t have any scoring spurts anymore. looks like he’s moving in molasses etc. he’s not all the way washed but he’s not even a 1/5th of last year. number do not tell the story.”
I can’t imagine LeBron spends too much time on Quora, in the Lakers mentions or on Reddit threads.
Noted hot-take artist Max Kellerman did tweet in April, “The days of LeBron James being way better than everyone else in the NBA are over,” but that was accompanied by a video in which he added: “And then he has the playoffs, where he just reminds everyone again ... he blows everyone out of the water.”
Heck, I acknowledged that calling the Lakers less than title favorites was a hot take in a piece that focused more on how his supporting cast would impact their playoff hopes more than LeBron’s mileage.
There were plenty of other people who questioned whether LeBron’s historical career minutes load and injury last season might signal a new phase of his career in which he rests more often, whether it be as part of load management, on defense or by deferring to Anthony Davis — all things LeBron himself has acknowledged — and those too came with caveats about how a playoff-less summer might rejuvenate him, how even he needed help carrying the lifeless Lakers and how he still has great seasons left in him.
Everyone thought LeBron was so washed that both ESPN and Sports Illustrated listed him as the third-best player behind only Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard, the reigning regular-season and Finals MVPs. I think it is fair to wonder if LeBron is no longer the best player in the NBA, especially after what we saw from Leonard and LeBron on opening night, and it is probably still fair to wonder seven games into this season if LeBron can maintain his current level of play over a full season at age 35.
It was Kellerman’s partner and Hot Take God Stephen A. Smith who reported in May that it was people around the Lakers who were “imploring” owner Jeanie Buss “to trade LeBron James.” So, as best as I can tell, the closest anyone with clout has come to thinking LeBron was washed is him and the Lakers. If that’s what they need to motivate themselves to title contention, then so be it, #WashedKing away.
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