What really bothers LeBron James: Younger players who see NBA as 1-on-1 basketball

Los Angeles Lakers v Memphis Grizzlies
Los Angeles Lakers v Memphis Grizzlies

Early in his career, LeBron James took a lot of criticism for making the right basketball play — he would drive, draw defenders and kick out to an open shooter. In Game 1 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron drove, drew in the defense, then made the right basketball play and passed to a wide-open Donyell Marshall in his favorite spot in the corner for a potential game-winner. It literally became a talking point for years — "LeBron doesn't have Jordan's killer instinct."

LeBron has always been an elite passer, a guy playing a team game who also could score — and he's frustrated with a younger generation trying to turn mismatches into pure one-on-one showdowns. In the fantastic Mind the Game podcast, where LeBron and J.J. Reddick talk a lot about basketball Xs and Os, LeBron discusses that frustration.

Reddick: "So if I go switch on you, you've now got it a favorable matchup "Part of it is not just so that you can get a shot, part of it like... basketball boils down to: Can you put two on the ball?"

LeBron: "And now you create the four-on-three on the backside. I don't think many people know that. You know why? Because everyone now has a narrative of this thing called, 'I have a bag.' Or, 'He doesn't have a bag.' It bothers the f*** out of me.

"Everyone thinks just because you get a favorable matchup that it means it's one-on-one time. 'Let's play ones' — that's all you hear the kids talk about now. 'Wanna play ones?' 'Wanna play ones?' But what the f*** is this? This is not Jordan versus Bird Nintendo. It's five on five. And yes, if you have an opportunity to have a favorable matchup and you can beat your man, boom. But realize something — most great teams are going to send help, and can you make the right reads? Can you make the right reads? Can you instill confidence in your teammates to when you've scored twice on a favorable matchup. You know that the double is coming, and you have to see it either coming from the tilt on the baseline or from the fire from the nail. You have to be ready for that. Like and it takes time for guys — and some guys don't want to learn and won't learn because they just want to play ones."

Quality players grow out of that. The best example right now is the Rockets' Jalen Green, who has been on fire lately. Since the All-Star break, Green has averaged 25.3 points a game, and part of that is finding his 3-point shot (41.1% since the All-Star Game, 30.7% before), but a large part of it is him also becoming a better playmaker for the team. He is one of the league's best athletes and can score in isolation, but he's started to be a true playmaker who can make the reads LeBron is talking about, is finding open teammates, and the Rockets have won 10 straight and are pushing for a play-in spot.

LeBron came to that kind of playmaking far more naturally than even other greats like Jordan or Kobe Bryant, who had to grow into it. Most players have to grow into it, but LeBron is frustrated with those who don't want to.