LeBron James has been slammed by a Los Angeles Lakers legend after choosing to eat while sitting on the bench.
The 38-year-old played the first half of a preseason game against the Golden State Warriors on October 14. He did not take part in the second half and instead returned to the bench wearing normal street clothes instead of his basketball gear.
The 19-time All-Star did not come back empty-handed as he was seen on the sidelines eating a meal while watching the rest of the game. This infuriated five-time NBA champion Michael Cooper, who spent 12 seasons with the Lakers and won the Defensive Player of the Year in 1987.
After his playing days came to an end, Cooper was the Lakers’ assistant coach from 1994-1997 before moving over to the WNBA ’s Los Angeles Sparks, where he was the assistant before becoming head coach. He believes the former league MVP disrespected basketball by choosing to eat on the bench while a game was being played.
“You’ve got to have respect for the game, man,” he told the ‘Showtime with Coop’ podcast. “He’s over there – I don’t mind the guy eating, but go eat in the locker room. Then when you come out, you come out and be part of the team, not just sit on the end of the bench eating.”
A player having some food on the bench is not normally seen during a basketball game, even in pre-season. But perhaps due to the more relaxed nature of warmup games and the fact he wasn’t going to enter the game again, James had no issue eating his dinner while keeping an eye on his teammates.
In his 18 minutes of play, James registered 12 points, five assists, and two rebounds in the 129-125 defeat by the Warriors. The Lakers’ most recent pre-season game came against the Milwaukee Buks in the early hours of Monday morning, which they lost 108-97.
The Western Conference team has lost three of its five warm-up games but they will have one final opportunity to fine-tune the team before the new season commences. In the early hours of October 20, the Lakers will contest their final preseason game against the Phoenix Suns.
The team has allowed James to ease into this training camp and the pre-season, incorporating rest days as he ramps up for the start of their new campaign which will begin in the early hours of October 25 against the defending champions, the Denver Nuggets.
“It’s easy with him navigating these so-called ‘challenges of the unknown’ because he takes such good care of himself and is constantly preparing himself,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “Again, not to just be available but be available at the highest [level]. We’ll just take it day by day and see where it goes.”