Being the coach of LeBron Raymone James, the undisputed best basketball player in the world, is a complex position. Paul Silas, Brendan Malone, Mike Brown, Eric Spoelstra and now David Blatt have all had to navigate the paradox of being bestowed a gift and a curse, steering a team that demonstratively belongs to James.
The so-called King has held unprecedented leverage for an NBA player at every turn. His current incarnation, virtually single-handedly dragging a Cleveland Cavaliers team decimated by season-ending injuries to its secondary stars, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, to a 2-1 series lead against the shellshocked Golden State Warriors in the Finals has elevated James’ stature as the game’s one true superstar.
And it is because of James’ immense presence that Blatt’s contributions to the Cavalier’s success are unfairly marginalized. Anyone who knows just a little about the depths of detail and preparation that goes into coaching one game in the National Basketball Association—let alone being at the helm of a team in the Finals—understands that Blatt is much more than a Christmas ornament.
Although the 56-year-old Princeton grad is a rookie NBA head coach, he has a vast winning resume coaching professionally overseas in Russia, Europe and Israel. Blatt’s handling of intense criticism that questioned his qualifications after the Cavaliers reached the halfway mark of the regular season with a suspect 21-20 record revealed someone who was determined to stay the course.
Fast-forward five months and he has the Cavaliers in solid control of the Finals heading into Game 4 tonight (Thursday) in Cleveland. No doubt, James, whose 40 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in the Cavs’ 96-91 Game 2 win Tuesday, will be immortalized if they go on to a series win. But Blatt’s far more subtle impact should also be given much deserved recognition.