Consider this stat: through the Lakers 9-2 playoff start, LeBron James has averaged 33.9 minutes per game. That is less than his ’19/’20 regular-season average (34.6) and far lower than his career 41.7 average postseason minutes per game. So much the Lakers “weak supporting cast.”
Everyone expected to see the large minutes LeBron had to play to drag Cleveland to the Finals year after year in the East, particularly after getting an unexpected rest due to COVID-19. Above all else, this speaks volumes about Anthony Davis. Throughout the playoffs, and particularly last night, AD has proven he is probably the best teammate LeBron has ever had.
You could try and make the case for Dwyane Wade, but he was beyond his prime when LeBron joined him in South Beach. Davis is entering his prime, and finally in the spotlight after his dramatic exit from New Orleans. Not only that, but AD is positionally a better fit with LeBron. Hell, at this pace, those “LeBron and Bronny in the NBA” comments don’t sound ridiculous anymore.
Such longevity proves LeBron is one of the most intelligent basketball players of all time – the way James managed his career, on and off the court, is unprecedented. One of the most impressive arguments for this case is definitely the most underappreciated one. Out of all the greatest ones, LeBron did most on his own.
“LeBron James came straight from high school. Do you know who his coach is? He didn’t go to college. He’s taken every rookie coach he’s had to the NBA Finals. From an educational standpoint, his knowledge base, where did this brain come from? He’s the Einstein of basketball. When you look at myself, a Jordan, a Shaq – we had Hall of Fame coaches.”Isiah Thomas, Undisputed
Jordan had Dean Smith, Doug Collins, Phil Jackson, and Tex Winter. Thomas had Chuck Daly. Kobe and Shaq had Phil Jackson. Bird had Red Auerbach, Magic played for Pat Riley. Who did LeBron have? The only Hall of Fame influence in his career was the mentioned Pat Riley, and he wasn’t his coach but team president. Erik Spoelstra is a tremendous basketball coach and will end up being one of the best in his era.
The most important thing Riley and Spoelstra taught LeBron was how to win, they educated him in “the Heat way.” But you could argue LeBron picked up all the tricks in the first two years with them. Here are LeBron’s coaches before he arrived at South beach – Dru Joyce, Paul Silas, Brandan Malone, and Mike Brown. After Riley and Spo? David Blatt, Tyrone Lue, Luke Walton, and now Frank Vogel.
“You just don’t walk in from high school, with no institutional knowledge, and dominate a sport for the years that he’s dominated.”Isiah Thomas, Undisputed
There a different side to that coin. LeBron could’ve had many more years surrounded with Hall of Fame institutional knowledge if he had stayed in Miami. He didn’t like the fact that Riley and Spo didn’t bend to superstar desires nearly as much as other franchises do. Lebron chose to leave and run the show somewhere else.
But Zeke’s point still mostly stands. Not until he was 26 years old did LeBron play under true Hall of Fame leadership. To achieve everything he’s done, before and after, particularly develop such a basketball mind on his own is mind-boggling.
LeBron is probably the greatest all-around athlete in professional sports. No one that big should be able to be as strong, as fast, and as agile. But his longevity and the story of his career are a testament that Lebron’s strongest brain is the one between his ears.