Lebron James is again on the NBA Finals stage. He has been to this point nine times. Three out of those, he came out hoisting up the Larry O’Brien trophy. If the Lakers win again tomorrow, he’ll raise it again for the fourth.
This time, he’s no longer the self-entitled ‘king’ he used to be. Lebron James has completely transformed his style of game while still maintaining his prime form.
Mark Cuban, the ever-visible owner of the Dallas Mavericks, was asked about his opinion on Lebron James’ career on The Rematch podcast. Cuban focused on the Lebron James that his Mavs faced in 2011 versus the Lebron James in 2020. His comparison was succinct. Cuban said that the difference is ‘night and day.’
“He has the basketball-IQ level now; he’s just a basketball savant. The way he sees and reads what’s happening on the court in real time and stays three steps ahead is incredible. And that’s what makes him special – in addition to his athleticism. He didn’t have that [back in 2011].”
Rick Carlisle threw everything he had to James in 2011 en route to the Mavs’ first-ever NBA title. The majority of the defense plays focused on throwing a zone against the Heat. When James was handling the ball, he was visibly stifled. There were even instances when he’d give up the ball despite having an open shot or a clear path. Cuban added,
“He can now beat you in so many different ways. He’s still athletic enough. His skill-set has improved. His passing. But those all tie back to his basketball IQ and that’s something that wasn’t as developed as it is now.”
It can be argued that Anthony Davis is the Robin to the Batman of Lebron James this season. However, the opposite is also true. There were several nights throughout the season when Lebron James wasn’t the best player on the floor.
However, it’s hard to argue that James has missed a beat in his game. Like a fine wine, Lebron continues to develop his craft. As such, it may not yet be time that he pass his crown to Anthony Davis. Sans any injury, the NBA will still see a lot of Lebron James in the next couple of seasons.
Image from The Dallas Morning News / YouTube thumbnail
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