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What really happened with LeBron James in the 2010 NBA Playoffs?

One of the most popular Cleveland Cavaliers conspiracy question marks will forever be what happened to LeBron James in 2010 in the series with the Celtics. Move over Delonte West and forget about alleged trades involving the Suns and J.J. Hickson, the one we’ll probably talk about forever is LeBron James, the Celtics, his elbow and all the “body language” diagnosis that can ever be fathomed. Conspiracy theories and speculation is for fans and media mostly, but Zach Lowe put it to Nuggets head coach Mike Malone, who was an assistant with the Cavaliers at that time and his answer seems much simpler.

I’ve never gotten a great answer on what, if anything, happened to LeBron in the 2010 series the Cavs lost to Boston. He put up numbers, but people thought he looked disengaged. There were rumblings of an elbow injury. You were there: What was your take?

It’s a great question. LeBron made us look like pretty good coaches in Cleveland. We owe him a lot. Boston was our nemesis. We could never get past Boston. But that series, in 2010, I don’t know if it was an injury. A lot of people said he quit, mentally.

Look, we won Game 3, took back home-court advantage, and went home for Game 5. We’re down six at halftime. I remember this so clearly. They come down, miss, offensive rebound, kickout 3 for Ray Allen. We’re down nine. They come down again, miss, offensive rebound, kick out, another Ray Allen 3.1 We’re down 12, series over. We never recovered.

To be honest, I don’t know: Was it physical? Was it mental? Did he not believe? I’m not sure. And right after, obviously, he took his talents to South Beach. But over those five years, we were maybe the winningest team in the league, and LeBron made all that possible.

As time has gone along, I’ve come to my own conclusion that LeBron James was just frustrated and overwhelmed. Combine it with my post-hoc conclusion that Mike Brown wasn’t ever going to be the right coach for the Cavaliers, and the easiest answer might just be the simplest.

But still, we’re left with video evidence of left-handed free throws which is just so hard to reconcile.

The conspiracies live on!