LeBron James & the Defiance of Complacency 

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At one point in the beginning of his career, LeBron was being scrutinized for his shooting. The coach he asked for help has now rejoined him this season as an assistant coach and has witnessed LeBron make scoring history.  

Being the best isn’t just the result of your effort. It’s the byproduct of your unrelenting will. 

In June of 2007, the Cleveland Cavaliers headed to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. It was LeBron James’ first trip to the Finals as well.  

The first-timers were swept by the San Antonio Spurs, true title contenders, equipped with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginóbili, and Tony Parker. Bron averaged 22 points in that series, five points below his season average, and he was held to only 14 points in Game 1. 

Greg Popovich and his players called on LeBron to shoot. They dared him, they agitated him, and then they defeated him.  

“Because of the Spurs in a lot of my early years is part of the reason why my jump shot is a lot better today,” LeBron pointed out in a 2019 walk-off interview after the Lakers defeated San Antonio. “My first Finals appearance in ’07, they went under everything, and I didn’t shoot the ball. I wasn’t comfortable with shooting the ball at that point in time of my career. I give a lot of thanks to their scheme.” 

For some, failure will metastasize in the body. And for others it will live in your body as an insatiable hunger—a restlessness, a voice that’s never going to quiet down.  

That sweep by the Spurs might’ve been one of the best things to happen to LeBron’s career? It gave him that darkness, that edge; and it gave it to him early, early enough to keep giving his game levels— levels that would ultimately take him to the top of the NBA’s All-Time Scoring List. 

After the 2006-07 postseason, LBJ knew his game had to be different. He called on one of the Cav’s assistant coaches, Chris Jent, to become his personal shooting coach.  

Coincidentally, the two share a fondness for Ohio State, where Jent studied, played basketball, and eventually coached at one point in his career. Before that, Jent had a brief stint in the NBA where he won a ring with the Houston Rockets in 1994. He’s been an assistant coach at the college level, in the G League, and for six NBA teams. Coach Jent has crossed paths with Bron twice, from 2006-2010 in Cleveland, and this historic season in Los Angeles.  

“It was a great time, a great time for me as a coach, to learn and to be with a player that’s so smart and calculated — you had to be on your toes,” Jent recalled about the beginning of his relationship with LeBron.  

“There had to be ‘the why’ behind why you’re doing things, there had to be a certain flow. But yet you had to challenge the individual, make things competitive so he could lock in and not just do it to do it, but compete against himself, which got him more engaged with the learning piece.”  

With such a high basketball IQ, Jent was conscious of how to keep LeBron intrigued. He studied Bron’s game and then would actually go out to the court and mimic the tactics he planned on teaching and demonstrating. His approach was thorough and complete, and it was equally thoughtful and considerate.  


Jent stands at 6’7.” With his acute posture, he’s got the walk of more of a soccer player than a basketball player. But almost instantaneously once he steps on the court, his center of gravity gets a bit lower. He lowkey squares up and assumes a guard stance probably because his body has muscle memory with the hardwood.  

You’re more than likely going to find him in a black Lakers long-sleeved shirt and matching black joggers. He maintains a very collected demeanor, almost sculpturesque from afar. But face to face, he has these kind blue eyes and a really amicable way of how he carries himself.  

In terms of coaching, Jent explains, “the main part of my philosophy is to breed confidence in players. I think that everyone has to feel good when they’re out on the floor whether it be information—they feel well informed—but also just their game, whatever they do out there on the floor they feel confident in any element they can perform.” 

Any examination of LeBron would convey that confidence wasn’t his issue. LeBron came into the league with dominance and pure force, and a gifted basketball mind to go with it. But playing in the Finals, playing against the best, his shooting had failed him. A good coach can pinpoint areas of improvement; a good player will accept them.  

“The thing about him was his shoulders and his feet,” Jent pointed out about LeBron’s form. “He’s such a big guy that his shoulders were turning, so as he was rotating his shoulders, his bottom half would go with it.”  

Coaching LeBron to plant his feet before shooting helped him use his body weight to his advantage, rather than interfering with his shot.  

“I really used form shooting to give him a better base and to calm the twisting of his upper torso. And that kept him in line with the hoop because the problem was, he would turn, and he would physically do a 180 as he would shoot the basketball because of his size and force,” Jent described.  

“It was amazing,” he said of LeBron’s discipline. “He was capable of doing things again, and again, and again. Like form shooting, I mean he could do 300 to 500, where someone could only do like 100 before they’d get bored. He could mentally lock in.” 

After a while Jent’s coaching became nonverbal, he’d give LeBron a look and Bron would know what corrections needed to be made.  

The work they did together had three phases: shooting, the pick-n-roll game, and then the postgame— to prepare LBJ for the transition from the three to the four spot. Twenty seasons later, he can play anywhere one through five.  

After all this time, and all this progress, the two have reunited. And what statistic serves as better proof of Bron’s shooting improvement than becoming the NBA’s All-Time Leading Scorer? The NBA’s All-Time Leading Scorer, with an affinity for passing first. * 

“Well, he was passing… but he was unstoppable. Right? That moving force, that freight train if you will, his movements and his size and skill level, it’s just made him unstoppable,” Coach Jent explained.  

In his 20th season, the King is still operating like a freight train through the lane just as Jent recalled from earlier in his career. LeBron’s making a remarkable 76% of his shots at the rim this season. His past five years with the Lakers have been his five highest three-point average seasons (by % of total shots), peaking last year with 34% of his shots from the arc. And in this record-breaking season, James has added another weapon to his repertoire— hitting a career-best 43% on midrange jumpers from 14ft to the three-point line.  

“You know, he just wasn’t much of a midrange player. But now, the way he moves through the paint and doesn’t necessarily attack the rim, but he takes what he has, shooting that midrange jumper,” Coach Jent detailed.  

The midrange just so happens to be the spot on the floor where he broke the All-Time Scoring Record. 

With any shot at his fingertips, if the court’s his castle, King James holds the key to every door. 


Everyone analyzes how LeBron’s biggest opponent is time, but time is trivial; time’s going to come and it’s going to go, time is nothing but an equalizer. Complacency though, complacency’s the one you have to watch out for, especially when greatness is in your grasp. 

“How do you stay engaged with the monotonous preparation and game schedule? Players just can’t sustain it mentally,” Jent declared. “Again, it’s that mental focus, and that’s what separates him as well, that mental ability to stay engaged with the game itself and to play at that level is amazing.” 

Many are quick to forget, the mastery of a skill is not merely a gift you’re blessed with; it’s in the preparation, it’s the constant defiance of complacency.  

“I think there’s a lot to be learned,” Coach Jent announced. “I just think for the young professionals, no matter what their skill level is, it’s the art of being a pro. It’s so necessary to your success as a person, that no matter what you’re doing, that you apply the right amount of energy, physical/mental energy to your work—to your craft. And that’s something every player should take with them.” 

For most, this title, this accomplishment, this is the top of the mountain. But for LeBron, this is just another stop along the way to the peak.  

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