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NBA: The Skills That Have Made LeBron an All-Time Great

There is no question at this point that LeBron James is one of the greatest NBA players of all-time. His remarkable list of accolades (three-time NBA champion and Finals MVP, four-time MVP, multiple-time All-Star and First-Team All-NBA, etc.) speaks for itself.

Even as a teenager, LeBron showed that he possessed a variety of skills that could one day make him an all-time great. But throughout his illustrious career, he has only continued to add to his already unprecedented skill set.

Many SBOTOP NBA fans certainly appreciate LeBron’s greatness. So with the league still in uncharted territory, now is as good a time as any to take a loot back at all the skills that make King James true basketball royalty.

 

Magical Passing

James was hailed as a phenom during his high school years, with many predicting that he would go on to become the next Michael Jordan. However, that wasn’t quite the most accurate comparison as young James more resembled another NBA legend: Earvin “Magic” Johnson.

Even at a very young age, James displayed some preternatural vision and passing ability that very few players in NBA history possessed. That, combined with his impressive 6-foot-8 frame, made him just about the closest thing to Magic since Magic himself.

And so it proved as James has been one of, if not the best passer in the NBA over the course of his career. He averaged 5.9 assists per game as a 19-year-old rookie and has been over 6.0 assists every year since.

With his significant size, he could see the entire court over smaller defenders. And as he grew smarter and wiser with time and experience, his passing has become even more dangerous. He’s been able to systematically slice through opposing defences with his pinpoint passes, especially when he’s been afforded enough space and shooting alongside him.

Of all the skills and gifts that make James one of the greats, it’s the sheer brilliance of his passing that truly makes him special. He’s showcased it once again this season in Los Angeles, where he’s essentially playing point guard and averaging a career-best 10.6 assists per game.

James’ ability to orchestrate virtually the entire offence like Magic did back in the day was a major reason why the Lakers are title favourites.

 

Unstoppable Finishing

Aside from James’ passing, his overall physical tools have also helped make him so unique. He was an absolute physical specimen even in high school, where he already had a body capable of competing in the NBA. Until his time with the Lakers, he hardly even got injured. People with his combination of size, strength, and speed really should not exist.

Almost as soon as James came into the league, he made great use of those physical gifts in terms of his finishing around the rim. He could blow by his defenders thanks to his great quickness and agility, and once he got to the rim, he’d use his size, strength, and freakish athleticism to finish past big shot-blockers.

LeBron was already one of the league leaders in terms of finishing during his first stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers. While his powerful dunks stood out, his touch and feel around the rim were also impeccable. But it was during his time with the Miami Heat where he truly reached that next level.

Not only did he improve upon his already imposing body, but he also refined his skill and knowledge of the game, which made him close to unstoppable in the painted area. It got to the point where he shot over 56 per cent from the field in back-to-back seasons (2012-13 and 2013-14), which is unheard of for a perimeter player.

It was also around this time where James developed his post-up game. Not only did he dominate from the post with his scoring, but it also unleashed more of his passing as he would pick out open shooters once opposing defences would double-team him.

James has understandably fallen off a bit physically at age 35 and is no longer the same elite finisher that he was in his prime. But make no mistake, he was still making NBA 2020 highlights as one of the very best in the league when it comes to getting a bucket from up close.

 

Much-improved Shooting

LeBron James undoubtedly spearheads Los Angeles Lakers to beating their opponents this 2020 NBA season
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James shoots the ball against Milwaukee Bucks center Robin Lopez

James is one of the most complete basketball players of all-time, but perhaps his biggest weakness as a player has always been his shooting. There were doubts about his ability to be a consistent shooter when he came into the league, and they persisted during his first few years with the Cavs.

He was an average to slightly below-average 3-point shooter for the first handful of years and has never cracked 80 per cent from the free-throw line for his entire career.

Since he was so dominant in the paint, the best way to defend James was to force him to be a jump shooter. And for the early part of his career, it worked.

But despite being an amazingly gifted player, James also had a tremendous work ethic. So slowly but surely, he worked on his shot and made it better, to the point where his mechanics were as good as any in the league, according to an NBA scout.

Once again, it all came together for him in Miami. He set a career-high of 40.6 per cent on 3-pointers in the 2012-13 season as his jump shot became much more consistent.

Granted, his shooting has never quite gotten up to the elite level of his finishing, which to this day remains the most effective part of his arsenal. But if opposing defences decided to dare James to beat them from the perimeter, he could make them pay. If he had his jump shot going on a given game, he was virtually unstoppable.

It goes without saying that there is so much more to LeBron James than these three skills. He is an unbelievable all-around player who can do just about anything on a basketball court. But in telling the story of LeBron’s career, these three skills are the ones that stand out in terms of making him one of the all-time greats.

 

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