With LeBron James breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's all-time scoring record, the Associated Press sought out three perspectives from Miami, Cleveland and Los Angeles to sum up his accomplishments.
(Editor’s Note: Shane Battier is a former Miami Heat teammate of LeBron James. Battier played in the NBA for 13 seasons, the last three of them with James in Miami. He shared some memorable moments with The Associated Press of what he witnessed during their time together with the Heat.)
There was a night that I’ll never forget as long as I live, and it made me have just such a deeper appreciation for who LeBron James was as a person, as a man, as a player.
We were in Boston in 2012, during the playoffs, no love lost from Boston fans. We’re walking to dinner and a car slows down next to us. A guy said, “Hey LeBron, I hate you, you suck.” He rolls up the window and proceeds down the street.
As players we’re used to being called names and whatnot. But at that moment I understood all the stuff he had to deal with from Day 1 and being on the cover of Sports Illustrated at 16 and being No. 1 in the draft and being the most hyped athlete maybe ever, the most famous athlete maybe ever at every step of the way. There wasn’t a moment where he could hide behind a teammate, hide behind a coach.
He’s always proven he can handle it. He handled it that time, too.
(Editor’s Note: Kevin Love is a five-time All-Star and former Cleveland teammate with LeBron. Love played four seasons with James and won the title with him in 2016, when the Cavaliers overcame a 3-1 deficit in the Finals to win Cleveland’s first professional sports championship since 1964. Love reflected on his time with James for The Associated Press.)
Those years LeBron had here in Cleveland, capped by a winning a championship, cemented his legacy. Naturally, the first one he got in Miami was a weight off his shoulders. The back-to-back titles solidified him and the Heat. It showed they were a dynasty before we saw those guys out in San Francisco, that’s a real powerful team. I feel that, and I think he would say the same, that 2016, especially in the manner that we won, and against the 73-9 team we beat and him being from Akron, it was definitely the most important one for him.
What always impressed me about my time with LeBron is the precision of his life. He’s a man with a plan. He’s become larger than the game.
It will be very tough to eclipse or surpass him as a better face for the NBA and what he has meant for the league. He had all the pressure in the world on him and people were touting him and projecting him to be Jordan-esque or the next Jordan. The man has “Chosen One” tattooed across his back and he goes out and exceeds expectations. And at every juncture, every fork in the road, anything that came up — adversity, any lump that he took. People wanted to tear him down, buy he always found a way. Like he says, strive for greatness.
He’s found a way to achieve a level of greatness that very few in this world have touched or seen. He’s on the Mount Rushmore of the greatest athletes of all time. And when you consider what he’s done away from basketball with the I Promise School or the people he has impacted over the course of his career or what he’ll do after basketball, it’s a pretty incredible story about who he is and what he’s about.
It’s not just his body. It’s not just his process. It’s not just his intention. It’s his brain.
I feel so fortunate my career intersected with LeBron’s. Everybody that he touches, especially if you have that opportunity to be within his orbit or his gravitational pull, whether it’s covering him as a media member or me playing with him in very special years, especially here and because of what he means to Northeast Ohio, that is definitely something that is not lost on me.
For when it happened at the point it did in my life, it could not have been better for me. It really helped me grow up and become a man and understand sacrifice and become a better teammate while also allowing me to be my authentic self and unapologetically myself, 100%. As a fan, a friend, a teammate, to be part of the brotherhood, it’s special to have him be within our family. It’s pretty amazing.
(Editors’ Note: Darvin Ham is in his first season as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. He was a longtime NBA assistant coach and as a player helped the Detroit Pistons win the NBA title in 2004.)
When I got hired to coach the Los Angeles Lakers, one of the first things that I saw was the tweet where LeBron James congratulated me.
I’m not on social media myself, but people I know who are, and they saw it and screen-shotted it and sent it to me. All the major platforms were showing the tweet, so I got his number and called him and just had a lot of laughs.
That’s when I started to learn what he’s all about. There was a lot of excitement on that call. There was energy both ways. We were ready to get started, ready to get going. He was verbalizing it, that I have his full support and that we were going to figure this thing out, to right the ship, so to speak. He said we’re going to get back to the way we should be performing and what we’re representing in terms of the Lakers. And he’s lived up to that every step of the way.
I waited a long time for a job like this. And working with LeBron, it’s an interactive type of relationship. He has a willingness to be coached. I’ll just start there. That’s the most awesome thing about ’Bron. He allows himself to be coached. You can get on him in a film session. You can point out mistakes. He’ll either admit it — “my bad” — or if he disagrees, he’ll disagree. And we figure it out. But it’s never anything malicious. It’s never anything personal. It’s not about his way or my way. We’re trying to figure out the best way.
That’s who he is. Everything has to be the best way. He’s one of one. His size, his athleticism, his shooting capabilities, his playmaking capabilities ... we haven’t seen anything like him before.
I don’t think he’s ever wanted the scoring record. He’s about team. He wants the team to do well. That’s the thing that shines through. He’s everything that he’s been advertised to be and much more. But just being around him and seeing him, I know he really enjoys his teammates. I’d even go as far as to say all this attention embarrasses him a little. When everybody’s trying to shine a light on him individually, he handles it with grace, don’t get me wrong, but he would much rather be a part of a group celebration than everyone talking about how great he is.
And we all know he’s great. Arguably the greatest. But he would prefer that everything be group focused. He’s about “How can my team and my teammates be put in the best position to be successful, not just me?” It’s a beautiful thing to see. It’s a beautiful thing to live every day and witness firsthand.