LeBron James reboots #WashedKing after perceived slight from NBA executives

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Elite athletes seek motivation wherever they can find it. 

For LeBron James, that means finding slights — or perceived slights — to fuel him in the offseason. In what's now officially a biennial tradition, James took to social media on Thursday with cries of "#WashedKing."

The hashtag is a redux of the mocking proclamation James made in 2019 shortly after his debut with the Los Angeles Lakers. He coined the hashtag in response to absolutely nobody of credibility claiming he was washed. 

This time, James at least pegged his complaint to something that could conceivably be perceived as a slight. ESPN conducted a poll of 10 anonymous NBA scouts and executives. They were asked — among other questions — who is the best player in the NBA? Five named Kevin Durant. Five named Giannis Antetokounmpo. 

That means zero voted for James. And a busy day for LeBron on social media.

The Return of the #WashedKing

The 2021 debut of the hashtag surfaced when a friend of James' brought the poll results to his attention on Twitter.

James responded by raising the stakes to "#SUPERWASHED."

James then took the campaign to Instagram. There, he made liberal use of the rolling on the floor/laughing emoji. 

Instagram/kingjames
Instagram/kingjames

He also unleashed #WashedKing classic, complete with a crown emoji.

Instagram/kingjames
Instagram/kingjames

He wasn't done. 

There was one more (at least) round on Twitter to be made, this time with the addition of a gas pump emoji letting the world know that he has, indeed, found more fuel for the 2021 season.

Is James' beef legit?

In reality, executives and scouts splitting their best-player votes between Antetokounmpo and Durant is not a slight. In the last three seasons, Antetokounmpo's collected two NBA MVP awards and an NBA Finals MVP trophy while producing one of the greatest Finals performances the league's ever seen. He has more than arrived at the summit.

Durant, meanwhile, returned to form as arguably the greatest scoring weapon in league history after suffering an Achilles tear in 2019. It can be reasonably argued that the epic Eastern Conference semifinals series between Durant's Nets and Antetokounmpo's Bucks determined the NBA champion. Were the Atlanta Hawks or Phoenix Suns going to beat Durant's Nets in a playoff series? Not likely.

Jan 25, 2020; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) looks on during a game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
LeBron James is not ready to concede the throne to Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant. (Bill Streicher/Reuters)

Meanwhile, James was still great last year. But he was also hobbled by injury. He missed 27 regular-season games and was a shell of himself in a first-round playoff loss to the Suns. He'll be 37 years old when the next NBA season kicks into full gear, and his body carries mileage like no other player in league history. 

For executives to name Antetokounmpo and Durant in their primes a tick above even a slightly diminished James isn't a slight. It's just reality. 

But that's not the crux of James' #WashedKing reboot. What matters here is that James is still finding motivation wherever he can coming off a highly disappointing 2020-21 campaign. It's one of the many traits that allows James to rightly call himself #King in any form.

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