LeBron James is one of the greatest players of all time due to his sustained excellence and leadership.
1. Gilbert Arenas
Gilbert Arenas is one of the best underdog stories you'll ever hear. He went from an unknown second rounder to a superstar. He was picked in the 2nd round of the 2001 NBA Draft with the 31st pick. He wore the number zero as this was the number of minutes people believed he would play.
Gilbert was not bad as a rookie as he averaged 10.9 PPG, 2.8 RPG, and 3.7 APG in limited minutes. This was pretty good for a second rounder with no expectations set on him. Arenas broke out in his second season with 18.3 PPG, 4.7 RPG, and 6.3 APG.
With Gilbert's immense potential, the Washington Wizards scooped him up. He became a star in Washington, with his best season coming in 2005-2006 with 29.3 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 6.1 APG.
Gilbert formed a big three in Washington with Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison. They were a good offensive team, but they could not get past LeBron as he eliminated the Wizards in the playoffs from 2005 to 2008. The Wizards had a short rivalry with LeBron, who mostly got the better of them.
2. Tim Duncan
Before the Golden State Warriors ascended in the West, it was the San Antonio Spurs that were perennial title contenders. Their core of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili carried them to a decade-long title contention window. LeBron James faced Duncan thrice is his career - in 2007, 2013 and 2014. Dunan won the war in 2007 and 2014. LeBron won in 2013.
Duncan was a highly coveted prospect in 1997 and was the consensus number one pick. He was as good as advertised, averaging 21.1 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 2.5 BPG and 2.7 APG. He handily won the Rookie of the Year honors.
Duncan teamed up with veteran David Robinson in order to form "The Twin Towers." The pair won two titles together in 1999 and 2003.
Duncan is known as "The Big Fundamental" as he was one of the most fundamentally sound players in history. He played the right way and had a high basketball IQ. He was a Spurs lifer and played for the team for 19 years.
3. Dwight Howard
Many people forget how good prime Dwight Howard was. He was a defensive juggernaut who was a perennial candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. Just like Shaquille O' Neil, Dwight also had the nickname of "Superman." This led to some beef between the two centers.
Howard was drafted 1st overall in the 2004 NBA Draft, a year after LeBron went first overall. He id easily able to average 20 points, 12-14 rebounds and 2-3 blocks a game. Though Howard's offensive abilities are limited, he easily scores on lobs and putbacks.
In the 2008-2009 season, where the Magic made the Finals, Howard averaged 20.6 PPG, 13.8 RPG, 2.9 BPG and 1.4 APG. He trounced LeBron James in the Eastern Conference Finals 4-2. This setup a showdown between Howard and Kobe, and it ruined any chance of LeBron and Kobe meeting in the Finals.
Howard then became a journeyman for a while. He played for the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks, Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets. He went back to the Lakers in the 2019-2020 NBA season and ironically teamed up with LeBron. This yielded Howard a ring.
4. Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant has long been competing with LeBron James for the title of being the best player in all of basketball. Durant has all the tools to be the best. He is seven feet tall, has long arms and has the quickness and athleticism. He is the modern day version of Larry Bird.
There has been an ongoing joke that Durant is always second. He was the second overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. He also came second to LeBron James in the 2012 NBA Finals and in the 2010 MVP voting.
After coming up short a lot, Durant decided to join the Golden State Warriors in order to form a superteam. Together with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, they ran roughshod on the league and won two titles in three years.
Durant's best season may have been in 2013-2014 with 32.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG, and 5.5 APG.
He lost to LeBron in the 2012 NBA Finals but got his revenge in 2017 and 2018 when he and the Warriors decimated LeBron's Cavs. Durant is a walking bucket who can essentially score 30 points in his sleep.
5. Kawhi Leonard
There have been many players assigned to guard LeBron James, and Kawhi Leonard was probably the most successful at the task. In fact, Leonard won the 2014 Finals MVP by helping shut down LeBron.
One of Leonard's finest seasons was in 2019-2020 with 27.1 PPG, 7.1 RPG, and 4.9 APG. It was his maiden season with the Los Angeles Clippers. This came after his solid 26.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG, and 3.3 APG output with the Toronto Raptors. In this same season, he won the first and only NBA Championship for the Raptors franchise.
Leonard is the perfect player for the modern game. He has large hands and long arms and can defend well. He can also shoot the three ball and score at an efficient rate.
The only knock on Leonard is his lack of durability. He has never played a full season due to injuries or load management.
© 2021 Jan Michael Ong