Back in February, GQ writer and a huge LeBron James fan Mark Anthony Green made a bet with Skip Bayless that if LeBron made the Finals, then Skip would have to say 10 positive things about the one he hates the most. He not only made the Finals but led the Lakers to the organization’s 17th. And before Game 1, his biggest hater held up his end of the bargain. So here are 10 things Skip Bayless loves about LeBron James.
1. The greatest high-school player ever
‘LeBron James was the greatest high school basketball player ever, even greater than Lou Alcindor. LeBron was better because LeBron could pass it and could dominantly score the basketball.‘
2. He had the greatest NBA debut ever
On Oct. 29, 2003, James made his professional debut against the Sacramento Kings. In 42 minutes of action, LeBron had 25 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists, and 4 steals. According to Skip, ‘No player in the history of the NBA has stood up better to an NBA debut expectation the way LeBron James did.’ It was enough for him to that new NBA ‘star was born.’
3. The greatest passer ever
‘Since LeBron James has entered the NBA, he has been the best passer in basketball, and he remains to this moment the best passer in basketball.‘
For the first time in his career, LeBron led the league in assists with 10.2. But this one strikes me as a surprise, especially given how big of a Magic Johnson fan Skip Bayless is.
4. The greatest driver to the basket ever
‘LeBron James is still the greatest driver of the basketball I have ever seen. A 6’9″, 260-pound freight train to the rim. Never seen anything like it before.’ We’ve heard Skip say this a million times. Usually, it’s followed by a criticism of LeBron settling for a jump shot in a clutch situation. But this time, Bayless only gave LBJ his credit.
5. The most socially involved athlete ever
‘No athlete has ever been a more consistently powerful speaker on race or social justice topics. Nobody is in this man’s league when it comes to the power of his platforms that he has created and maintained. Nobody has taken more advantage of his platforms in the history of sports.‘
No arguments here. When it comes to social stuff, there hasn’t been an athlete as involved as LeBron James, and Skip was always the one to give him the credit for it.
6. Coming up big in Game 6 at Boston in ’12
‘LeBron stood up to pressure I don’t believe any NBA player has ever faced or felt in Game 6 at Boston. Even the staunchest LeBron defenders and apologists were starting to doubt if he was made of the right stuff. The Heat won that game by 19 points because LeBron dominated from start to finish. That was in most people’s eyes the greatest game he ever played, facing the most pressure he’d ever face.‘
LeBron has said it himself, had they lost this game; Pat Riley might have the big three up. So James took matters into his own hands, exploding for 45 points on 19-of-26 shooting, 15 rebounds, and five assists, forcing a Game 7 and eventually leading the Heat to the ’12 NBA championship.
7. Being humble after he won his first ring
I love the humility that LeBron James displayed moments after he finally broke through and won his first ring in Game 5 in Miami against the Oklahoma City Thunder. He said live on ABC right after the game, ‘It’s about damn time,’ and that was a perfectly beautiful way to put that because I sat back and said, ‘Yeah, you’re right.‘
James was also the Finals MVP, as he averaged 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 7.4 assists, leading the Miami Heat to a six-game series victory over the Thunder.
8. Game 7 performance against the Spurs in ’13
This was a legacy shifting game for LeBron after Ray Allen saved him with one of the greatest shots in the league’s history in Game 6. So in order to prove to the basketball world, he can in fact close the game on the biggest stage, James exploded for one of his greatest individual displays in the Finals. And despite being a huge Spurs fan, Skip gives him credit for it.
‘In 2013, LeBron James played a great Game 7 against my Spurs – 37-12-4 and two steals. That was a great Game 7 against what was left of my Spurs.‘
9. Unmatched durability
‘LeBron James is the most durable superstar ever. He is iron man. The only other athlete who rivals the dedication that LeBron James puts into his fitness routine is Tom Brady. But the irony of what I just said is LeBron plays much more of a contact sport than Tom Brady plays.‘
Once again, no arguments here. LeBron’s longevity is unmatched, and it remains his biggest argument in the GOAT conversation.
10. Should’ve been this year’s regular-season MVP
‘LeBron James should have been the regular season MVP this regular season. He deserved the MVP. He was better in the regular season than even Giannis was, and the narrative was better because he did bounce back after a lackluster first year with the Lakers.’
LeBron is still the best player in the world, but he shouldn’t have been this year’s MVP. However, kudos to Skip for showing respect for James’ performance over a shortened regular season. This may be the first time he did it, that he’s wrong. But with all the undeserved hate, it’s good to know he can show some undeserved love for his NBA muse in LeBron James.