What sets LeBron James apart from most players that have played in the NBA is his ability to bring out the best in his teammates. Dwight Howard, who played two seasons with James for the Los Angeles Lakers, is the latest to allude to James’ unique and superior skills. Based on his experience, Howard said that he admires how every move James makes is calculated on strategy.
“Everything he’s doing, he’s strategically doing. He’s playing chess. That’s something I got just watching him with how he moves. Everything he’s doing, he’s positioning himself and the people around him to make sure that everyone is successful in whatever field it may be,” Howard said on the Knuckleheads podcast with Quentin Richardson & Darius Miles.
Chess not checkers
That’s why, more often than not, you’ll spot The King skimming through a particular stat sheet (just look at the video below as an example) in between games. And while it might look like James is doing it for his own agenda, Howard said that’s far from the case.
Instead, the stat sheet plays a massive factor in helping James figure out how to not only get himself going but also put his teammates in the right palace to succeed.
“He’s always watching the stat sheets. It’s not like he’s looking to pad stats. He’s looking to figure out with numbers how can he be more effective. ‘How can this player be more effective? I gotta get this guy shots here. I gotta do this for this guy.’ He’s just really keeping account of what’s going on. It’s like how he does his business. He does it the same way,” Howard added.
From rivals to championship brothers
Howard and James started their careers in the NBA as rivals competing against each other in the Playoffs. Their most notable head-to-head match happened in 2009 when Howard got the best of James in the Eastern Conference Finals — leading the Orlando Magic to the Finals in the same year.
However, as years went on, James reached his peak powers while the 3-time Defensive Player of the Year saw a decline in his game due to multiple serious injuries. As a result, Howard’s stock eventually decreased, and he moved to 5 different teams after his Magic tenure.
Then, in 2020, the Lakers decided to give Howard another shot to redeem his career after being out of the league for a brief while. Even though the Lakers made it clear that Howard would have to play as a backup big, he still managed to be a star in his role. Howard ended up winning his first championship alongside James, who brought out the best in him.