LeBron James is one of the greatest players of all time due to his sustained excellence and leadership.
1. DeMar DeRozan
DeMar DeRozan is perhaps the greatest midrange shooter of the current era. It's too bad the game has changed to be more three-point line centric.
The DeRozan-led Raptors were title contenders. In his last two seasons with the Raptors, he averaged 27.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, and 3.9 APG. and 23.0 PPG, 3.9 RPG, and 5.2 APG. He and Kyle Lowry formed a dynamic duo that was able to take on anyone in the East. The exception was LeBron James.
After several playoff disappointments that led to exits at the hand of James, DeRozan was eventually traded to San Antonio for a one-year Kawhi Leonard rental. This proved to be a brilliant move as Toronto captured its first and only title.
2. Joakim Noah
Joakim Noah has sports in his blood as his father is Yannick Noah, winner of the French Open in 1983. Noah played for the Florida Gators in college and won back-to-back NCAA championships in 2006 and 2007.
The Chicago Bulls selected Noah with the ninth pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. While Noah was never a potent scorer, he developed into the anchor of the Chicago Bulls defense. Noah's 3rd season was his breakout season as he averaged 10.7 PPG, 11.0 RPG, and 1.6 BPG.
With the arrival of Noah in 2007, Derrick Rose in 2008, Taj Gibson in 2009 and Carlos Boozer in 2010, the Bulls were able to assemble a formidable team that peaked in the 2010-2011 season when the team went all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. However, they lost to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in five games.
With LeBron eliminating the Bulls in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2015, it is understandable why Joakim would hate LeBron. He was an obstacle he couldn't overcome.
3. Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk Nowitzki was a Mavericks lifer who played 21 seasons for the team. He had career averages of 20.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG, and 2.4 APG. He is currently 6th in total points with 31,560 points scored throughout his career.
Dirk Nowitzki versus LeBron James was the matchup between the modern day Larry Bird (Nowitzki) versus the modern day Magic Johnson (James). Though Dirk was always respectful towards his opponents, the same cannot be said of James and Wade, who made fun of Nowitzki for playing with the flu.
The newly minted superteam of James, Wade and Bosh were heavily favored against a veteran Mavericks team. Though Dallas had a lot quality players in Nowitzki, Caron Butler, Tyson Chandler, Jason Kidd, Peja Stojakovic, Jason Terry and Shawn Marion, a lot of these players were already past their prime. Despite facing a team comprising of three of the top ten players in the league, the Mavericks prevailed in 6 games and brought home their first ever championship.
4. Draymond Green
Draymond Green is the engine that makes the Golden State Warriors' engine run. He provides whatever the Warriors need - points, rebounds, assists and hustle plays. Green is also assigned to guard the best player on the opposing team. Draymond's best statistical season was in 2015-2016 when he averaged 14.0 PPG, 9.5 RPG, and 7.4 APG.
The Warriors had an amazing five-year run with five straight Finals appearances. Four of them were against LeBron James. Draymond and the Warriors won three of those four Finals against LeBron.
An achilles heel with Draymond is that he is temperamental, which leads to ejections and suspensions. This hotheadedness basically cost them the 2016 NBA Finals. Draymond and LeBron's battles on the court can be remembered because of the physicality involved as well as the mind games. Ironically, Draymond and LeBron are partners on the media platform Uninterrupted.
5. Paul George
After Reggie Miller's departure from the Indiana Pacers, Danny Granger was the next great Pacers player. Granger improved every year and he averaged 25.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG, and 2.7 APG at his peak. However, injury took its toll on Granger, and he was never the same. This led to Paul George being the man in Indiana.
Paul was a good defender and prolific scorer. The Pacers had one of the best defenses in the league, and they were the top bet to dethrone LeBron James in the East. Everyone was afraid of standing up to the superteam of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, but not Indiana.
The Pacers were able to take the LeBron James-led Miami Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2013 and to six games in 2014. Though they ultimately failed in taking down LeBron, they were the closest to do it.
Paul continues his rivalry with LeBron by playing for the Los Angeles Clippers, a team with a serious rivalry with the Los Angeles Lakers. George's best season in his career was in 2018-2019 with 28.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG, and 4.1 APG.
© 2021 Jan Michael Ong