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LeBron’s Big Mad Summer

Every day can’t be Taco Tuesday. From the NCAA’s new “Rich Paul Rule” to some irksome comments from his former GM, James’s offseason has been full of gripes.

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Tuesdays have been a recurring holiday of sorts for LeBron James; joyous occasions, filled with tortillas, guacamole, and deep, guttural screams proclaiming to all the King’s dominion that he’d be feasting on tacos. One Taco Tuesday included a special guest. Another took place on a movie set. And the most recent iteration now includes branded merch.

If we’re judging LeBron’s offseason purely on enjoyment received from consumption of Mexican food, it might be the best few months of his life. But tacos can take one only so far. All summer, James has been getting Big Mad. Big Mad about the state of the Lakers. Big Mad about what his old front office buddy David Griffin said about working with him. And this past Taco Tuesday, LeBron used his Instagram—usually the home of embarrassing post-workout dancing and sautéed meats—to get Big Mad about the NCAA.

Big Mad About the NCAA

On Monday, the NCAA issued a memo listing new certification requirements to agents wishing to represent players testing the waters of the NBA draft. It stipulated that agents must submit an application, take an in-person exam at NCAA headquarters in November, have at least three consecutive years of NBPA certification, and have at least a bachelor’s degree to represent players. At first glance, the criteria seem reasonable. The NCAA has accepted that agents will forever be a part of the collegiate athlete experience and is attempting to broach an above-board relationship with them. But deeper reading reveals an obvious target of the new rules.

Rich Paul—LeBron’s best friend, business partner, and super-agent—famously does not have a college degree, prompting none other than the King himself to declare this new statute “#TheRichPaulRule.”

On Instagram, James went even further, posting press clippings about Paul before highlighting passages from a Sports Illustrated story proclaiming Paul as “a major threat to every corporate agency that exists,” and reminding readers that he doesn’t have a degree. He then submitted the full criteria laid out by the NCAA with the caption “#StayWoke.” In short: My dude was heated.

Big Mad About the Roster

The summer has gone on longer than normal for James. The Lakers were eliminated from playoff contention in March, and, a week later, James played his last game of the season. It marked the first time since 2005 that he didn’t log postseason minutes, and since 2010 that he didn’t play into June. His first losing season in more than a decade was coupled with his first real injury in a storied career. James, almost halfway through his 30s, has more than 56,000 regular-season and playoff minutes under his belt; questions have sprouted about how much longer he can stand atop the league.

While James hasn’t acknowledged any creeping doubts about his ability—though those shirtless workout captions have seemed a bit more pointed—he has shown a renewed sense of urgency and determination ahead of his second Lakers season. Or, as James forecasted in April, the offseason has been “uncomfortable.”

James has historically taken a passive approach to his team’s offseason plans; he infamously refused to commit to the Cavs long-term, and he let the Heat draft Shabazz Napier for him a month before bolting from Miami. Yet in April, James called the Lakers’ offseason “critical,” saying he would “be as active as I need to be for this franchise to get better.” And he’s followed through as the offseason has gone on. After the Lakers finally landed Anthony Davis in a trade in June, James reportedly started recruiting Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler to join the fold, albeit without success. And on Wednesday, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that he planned to gather his teammates—almost all of whom will be new to the Lakers—for a training camp in Las Vegas in September before the team-sanctioned camp in Los Angeles.

In March, James declared to Lakers fans just days after the team’s elimination from the playoffs that he’d right the ship. So far, he’s been aggressive about making good on his promise.

Big Mad About David Griffin

Earlier this month, Sports Illustrated profiled LeBron’s former general manager and current New Orleans Pelicans steward David Griffin. In the piece, Griffin lamented that building around the superstar in Cleveland was a miserable experience.

“Everything we did was so inorganic and unsustainable and, frankly, not fun. I was miserable,” Griffin told SI. “Literally the moment we won the championship I knew I was gonna leave. … The reason is LeBron is getting all the credit and none of the blame. And that’s not fun for people.”

LeBron didn’t take kindly to being dragged and made his displeasure known, leading to Griffin’s appearing on ESPN to clarify his remarks. He told viewers on The Jump that his misery came not from dealing with James, but from the media scrutiny that surrounded him.

Big Mad About LeBron

Even when LeBron isn’t the one getting all worked up, he’s sparked uproar. In late July, James joined the warmup line at his son’s AAU game to throw down a tomahawk dunk and then was animated in celebrating an alley-oop, losing his shoe on the court. To most, he was seen as an exuberant dad, excited about his son and his friends’ play. To others (read: those who hate fun and all who have it), it showed entitlement and a lack of sportsmanship.

Alas, even when LeBron is enjoying himself, he can’t escape the summer of Big Mad. Maybe he just needs some chips with the dip.