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“That’s Something Michael Jordan Never Did”: LeBron James Turning Into A Player-Coach À la Bill Russell Intrigues Bill Simmons

Advait Jajodia

"That's Something Michael Jordan Never Did": LeBron James Turning Into A Player-Coach À la Bill Russell Intrigues Bill Simmons

As many expected, the Los Angeles Lakers have relieved Darvin Ham of his duties as the team’s head coach after being eliminated in the first round of the 2024 NBA playoffs. As soon as the news of the firing went viral, analysts and enthusiasts alike have been trying to figure out who the replacement for Ham could be. According to multiple sources, Mike Budenholzer, Ty Lue, Juwan Howard, JJ Redick, and Kenny Atkinson are all among the frontrunners to be hired by Rob Pelinka and Co. However, famous NBA guru, Bill Simmons went in a completely different direction, flagging  LeBron James as a potential candidate.

Every esteemed personality from the basketball community has given their two cents on the Lakers’ coaching issue. Amidst this, Bill Simmons, who is known for chiming in on every major topic, gave a peculiar idea – LeBron James to become the player-coach of the Purple & Gold.

According to the 54-year-old, James would be the perfect candidate… to coach himself. Additionally, Simmons shed light on the fact that Bill Russell was one famous player to be successful as a player-coach for the Boston Celtics in the late 1960’s – winning two championships in three years.

“I was thinking about LeBron James and the next Lakers coach. Who’d want that job? A. B – who’s the right guy to coach LeBron James at this point of his career, he’s almost 40 years old. The right guy is LeBron James.

Bill Russell did this. Last three years after Red Auerbach retired, Bill Russell was the player-coach of the Celtics and won two titles. And it’s one of the things you get to mention – who are the best players of all time? Bill Russell. Won 11 titles, coached himself for the last two,” Simmons stated.

Bill Simmons claimed that there would also be a massive positive for James to take on the player-coach opportunity. If LBJ did manage to reach the NBA Finals as the player-coach, it would solidify his case as the GOAT.

“You know who never did that? Michael Jordan. LeBron James, if he wins a title or even makes the finals as a player-coach, that’s something Michael Jordan never did. Then you start thinking like ‘well, Michael Jordan never played 25 seasons. Well, Michael Jordan never coached himself and almost made a finals’. Now the GOAT debate becomes more interesting. Coach yourself LeBron James,” Simmons claimed.

The 6ft 9” forward is one of the smartest players with the highest basketball IQ in NBA history. The King looks at the game from a completely different perspective than his colleagues and competitors.

Given his ability to anticipate situations and read the floor differently, if he wanted to, James could potentially become a successful coach in the NBA. However, does LBJ really have the motivation required to pull this off?

Can LeBron James be motivated to pull off a Bill Russell move?

Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Following the 1965-1966 season, Red Auerbach decided to retire as the Boston Celtics coach. He put an end to his stint after winning nine titles in 15 years. Following Auerbach’s departure, Bill Russell assumed the role of the head coach while still being a player on the team roster.

Unlike what many claimed, ‘Russ’ managed to carry off both tasks efficiently. In his three seasons as the player-coach, the 6ft 10” big man averaged 12.9 points, 20.8 rebounds, and 5.1 assists, per Basketball Reference. Additionally, he also led the Celtics to three consecutive postseason appearances, winning the titles in 1968 and 1969.

Years later, Bill Russell revealed that he took on the job as a challenge. Having won 8 titles in a row as a player, he felt the role of a player-coach could be an obstacle he would love to overcome.

“The biggest advantage of the change is I was starting to get bored,” Russell told Alan Paul of Slam. “We had won eight straight NBA championships. That is enough of a statement of anything you want to say, so the question becomes, ‘What’s next?’ Taking the job forced me to totally re-immerse myself in the game.”

LeBron James is already one of the top two contenders in the GOAT debate with Michael Jordan as his only competition. Had MJ turned into a player-coach, we could’ve seen James do the same to one-up His Airness. But in this case, the unnecessary pressure of coaching will not excite him at all.

Post Edited By:Tonoy Sengupta

About the author

Advait Jajodia

Advait Jajodia


Advait Jajodia, a seasoned NBA journalist, has had a passion for the game for over a decade. His journey from admiring Kobe Bryant's precision to being in awe of Stephen Curry's long-range mastery instilled a profound understanding of basketball. With a background as a two-time National-level player, Advait uses his experience on the hardwood to offer insightful analysis. Over three years of dedicated sports journalism has equipped the 21-year-old with a unique perspective, reflected in his prolific portfolio of 3,700+ articles.

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