What the sports world says about LeBron James, NBA’s new scoring leader: ‘An iconic figure’


As LeBron James marched toward the NBA’s all-time scoring record, which he broke Tuesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder, writers from across The Athletic asked players and coaches he competed with and against, as well as fans in sports from afar, what comes to mind when they think of LeBron. Here’s some of what they said:

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks forward: “I’ve said this a lot of times, for me, obviously a lot of people talk about MJ being one of the best players to ever play the game, but I grew up watching LeBron. I grew up watching Kobe, grew up watching KD. But like the thing that stands out about LeBron James is his consistency. Like, he’s been good for 20 years. You know, he’s never had a major injury. He’s always taking care of his body. He’s always available for his team, and he always plays at a high level, which is extremely hard. … I think he’s going to be the first player to ever get 40,000 points, which is insane to me.

“He’s getting better. He’s moving better. He’s more fluid. You knew that he understands the game really well, but now, it’s almost like he’s not even — he’s kind of walking the game. Like he knows the spot he’s going to get to, he knows how to get his teammates involved, he knows how to get himself involved or get himself going, which is insane. Obviously, this is the blueprint that I want to follow and I hope that people see this.

“At the end of the day, this is history, and you gotta tip your … hat to somebody that’s been great like that. Show him his respect and give him his flowers and you hope that you can get into a position like that in the future, that people can show you their respect and give you your flowers. But definitely, definitely one of the GOATs, if not the GOAT.”

Dwane Casey, Pistons coach: “LeBron’s the reason why I’m here. We couldn’t get past him in Toronto. Ran into him every year in the playoffs. He’s smart, a computer on the floor. That’s why he’s going to be able to play as long as he wants to play because of how smart he is as a player. He’s so smart. He can do a lot of different things on the court. That’s why his longevity is not a surprise to me.”

Rudy Gobert, Timberwolves center: “I would say consistency. It’s hard to realize for people, but being in this league, coming in at 18 years old and being a top player in this league, doing it over and over, going to I don’t know how many straight (NBA) Finals every year, coming back and being the best player on your team and doing it for 19 seasons? That’s to me the most impressive thing about LeBron. Obviously he’s an amazing player, but doing it 19 years in a row, it’s dedication. There is no other way you can say it. … Obviously the talent and the physical gift that he has is on top of that. But you can’t do that without incredible dedication.”

Monty Williams, Suns coach: “Whatever his pregame meal is, postgame meal is, let me know. It may help me grow hair. That type of longevity has to me more than just the physical. It has to be more than just lifting weights. It has to be a lot: the mental stamina to do that over a long time, it has to be a challenge. You’re talking about a guy who has been in the spotlight since the eighth grade and is 38 years old — I couldn’t tell you, man.”

Luka Dončić, Mavericks guard: “(He’s) a guy I’ve grown up watching my whole life. I don’t know the exact date (I started watching him). I couldn’t watch a lot of NBA games because I had to go to school. But (the first time I played him) I was nervous. Playing against him was a dream come true.”



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Fred VanVleet, Raptors guard: “The chosen one. He’s just the one who had the hype from the beginning. He lived up to it, surpassed it. He’s done it for 20 years now. I was just telling (another reporter), I think he’ll have a case for best career ever in sports, totally, when you add everything up. He’s the bar. He’s the bar for everybody to try to achieve. … It’s just crazy. At the age he’s at, to still be playing at a high level, it’s crazy. (James dominating the Raptors in the playoffs) was my first impression in the league. That is cemented in my memory forever. The level you had to get to beat him, I think that made a lot of difference in how I perceived him as a player, for sure. He’s pretty f—— good.”

Jason Kidd, Mavericks coach: “He’ll go down as the greatest to ever play the game. To play against him, to play with him, to coach him, he’s delivered each decade. Despite all the hype around him, he never stopped working. He probably overdelivered.”

Paul George, Clippers wing: “Just consistent. I think, when you think of LeBron, that’s what you think of. Just consistent. 20 years, being the guy: face of the league. And just on a nightly basis, what he has to go through. His consistency is what stands out the most to me.”

Anthony Edwards, Timberwolves guard: “He’s just one of the greatest of all time. He’s been doing it for a long time. Him averaging like 30 points right now is still crazy, and I feel like he grows as the game grows. So, he’s pretty impressive to watch … Every time the game changes, his game changes.”

Mike Brown, Kings coach (who coached James in Cleveland): “The crazy part about it is, when you say LeBron James, I just think the first thing that comes to mind is just the whole package. Obviously he can score, he can pass, he’s a champion, he’s one of, if not the, all-time greatest. You can go down the line with his accolades. But just his impact off the floor, in his community, with the people around him, to me, I’m blown away by it. How he helps so many others outside the game of basketball thrive and change their lives in ways that nobody could’ve imagined back when he was in high school or before that. That’s the first thing that comes to mind just because of how unique and what a high level he’s done it at. I’m just blown away.”

LeBron James and Mike Brown (Sergio Estrada / USA Today)

Kevin Durant, Nets forward: “He averaged 20 points his first year, 27 his second and like 31 his third, so you gotta be scoring. You can’t start off scoring 17 points your first four or five years, and that’s what makes LeBron even more special. He didn’t waste any time when he got into the league.

“He was ridiculous, man, and every basketball player should be looking up to him for that.”

Larry Nance Jr., Pelicans forward: “He’s been the greatest of all time for me for a while now. Obviously I’m from Akron, Ohio, so I’m a little bit biased. The expectations on him coming in and him surpassing those on the court as well as off the court … the caliber of role model he is for anyone and everyone is to be admired.”

Danny Green, Grizzlies wing (won title with LeBron in 2020): “Definitely one of the best players to ever lace them up, but I also consider him a friend, a brother, family, a guy that I won a championship with, a guy that I battled for championships against. There are so many things that go into that … relationship with him. When it’s all said and done, he’s going to be arguably the greatest player to ever lace them up.

“I consider myself very lucky and blessed to compete with guys like him. … To be able to play during the generation of his time is special.”

Scottie Barnes, Raptors forward: “LeBron is one of the greatest to ever do it, if not the greatest. What he’s done, his impact on the game, is gonna be forever. He’s done so much for the game. He’s influenced so many people — a lot of my culture, my generation. That was who I was growing up watching. That was one of the people I saw, being tall, athletic, being able to do everything on the floor. One of the greatest, if not the greatest to ever do it. He’s had that impact on the game.”

Jrue Holiday, Bucks guard: “One of the best at everything. If it’s passing, scoring, playmaking, decision-making, defensively, offensively, he’s pretty much, what, top three in every category. And he’s done it for probably the most out of any other player. That’s greatness.”

Brook Lopez, Bucks center: “Definitely lucky to have been able to compete against him, for sure. That’s something you’ll take away and have with you forever. Just the longevity and he’s been as great as he is for so long. To have played at his level for two decades, to just keep going, to keep producing, night in, night out, that’s impressive and frankly unprecedented. It’s not something we’ve seen before, at all.”



LeBron’s scoring record won’t be unbreakable. But it’ll be pretty close

Stephen Silas, Rockets coach (who was an assistant with Cavaliers in 2003-04): “When Kareem had the (scoring) record, I don’t think you ever thought that there would be someone to come along to break it, you know? The thing that made LeBron so good initially was his passing, and he’s still an amazing passer, but that was the staggering part for us when I was with him his rookie year (in Cleveland). He just knows the game as a 19-year-old and makes all these great plays for his teammates and finds every pass on the money. The scoring part just came along with it and now he’s going to be the greatest scorer in NBA history. So at that point, no, I didn’t know he would be at this point, but soon after I left him, I started to see as he went through playoff series after playoff series, season after season. He’s really just a super, super talent.”

Chris Boucher, Raptors center: “He’s done everything. He’s done everything he was supposed to. He’s still playing. He’s still dropping 40. On the floor, outside the floor, you can’t say anything about the guy. He’s always been positive, always been one to speak out for people. You’ve got to give him credit for everything.”

Jamaal Magloire, ex-NBA player: “Hard worker. I played with him in Miami, the first year of the big three. He’s a leader. He’s more than well deserving of this accolade. He’s one of the greatest players of all time. He was great then. He was a lot different. He endorsed greatness. We had to follow. Glad to be a part of it.”

Scoot Henderson, G League Ignite guard: “I think of greatness. That’s the Mecca. He’s the Mecca of sports. He speaks his word and I feel like that’s the biggest thing about LeBron. He says what’s on his mind. He believes in it. He’s confident in it, and he’s the biggest man in sports, he’s the biggest person in sports. It’s dope, and I’m gonna play against him, so I love that.”

As you might expect, admiration from James and his accomplishments extends beyond the NBA.

Dawn Staley, South Carolina woman’s basketball coach: “I think of LeBron more as a human being than as an athlete. I think he found his voice and he’s unafraid to utilize it. As a basketball player, he’s one of a kind. There won’t be another LeBron.”



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Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse, Edmonton Oilers defenseman: “He’s ‘The King.’ I actually got to see his first game (against the Raptors) in Toronto with one of my uncles because I played (minor hockey) in Toronto. I have great memories from that. It’s so cool to be able to witness someone be at the peak of their sport for such a long time like he has.”

Jack Hughes, New Jersey Devils center: “It’s pretty ridiculous. For me growing up, he’s like my Jordan. Best of my era.”

Lindsay Gottlieb, USC women’s basketball head coach (Cavaliers assistant from 2019-21): “We played the Lakers during COVID NBA, with no fans, so that was a really unique experience. There were like 200 people in the arena. And LeBron, in my opinion, is still the NBA player that NBA players go, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s LeBron.’ They might not say that out loud, but it’s really different.

“What was so unique for me, sitting on the bench, watching, he was the soundtrack of the building. He was calling out every coverage, he was saying what we were about to run and telling his teammates where to go. And I couldn’t believe it. Everything people say about how brilliant he is and how he can just manipulate the game from any position — I heard it. From a life experience, my ‘whoa’ moment from being in the NBA, that’s probably one of the craziest ones, just hearing the way he literally could just be the soundtrack of the game, just as a player on the court.

“I tell my players now all the time, if LeBron can talk that much on defense and call every coverage, and tell everyone where to be, I can get you guys to call out a screen.”

Evander Kane, Oilers winger: “He’s a top-three player of all time. He’s a billionaire. He’s the man. He does it all. He’s not just a basketball player. It’s almost like basketball identifies him after being a businessman and a celebrity — and then he’s a basketball player at this point. The longevity he’s had and the way he’s been able to stay healthy over his career helps. He’s had an incredible level of consistency. His talents and his gifts as an athlete, to be able to compete at his age and still dominate, it’s a rarity.”

Seth Jones, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman: “I will still say (Michael) Jordan’s the GOAT probably, but LeBron’s making a case for himself, especially with this milestone. Anytime I see the Lakers are on, and a lot of their games are on national TV, I’m turning it on. I’m a LeBron fan. He’s so exciting to watch every night. You can’t take your eyes off him.”

Nneka Ogwumike, Sparks forward: “I would describe him as an icon. He’s just an iconic figure. And to be able to do as much as he’s done, not just on the court. He’s been incredibly lucrative and smart and intentional about how he conducts business and how he represents himself, and I think it’s definitely going to be a moment to be celebrated amongst many more.”

The Athletic’s Tim Cato, James L. Edwards III, Will Guillory, Kelly Iko, Eric Koreen, Jon Krawczynski, Mark Lazerus, Sabreena Merchant, Law Murray, Eric Nehm, Daniel Nugent-Bowman, Ben Pickman and Joe Vardon contributed.

More LeBron James coverage from The Athletic

John Hollinger: LeBron James’ scoring record won’t be unbreakable. But it’ll be pretty close

Live coverage: Relive LeBron James breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record

Hunter Patterson: The top 10 moments of LeBron James’ career

LeBron James scoring record tracker: How Lakers star passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for top spot

Joe Vardon: Spring Hill, No. 602: For LeBron James and others, a place to dream

Joe Vardon and Jason Lloyd: A card shark who ‘eats like s—’ and helps save lives: A collection of untold LeBron James stories

(Top photo of Luka Dončić and LeBron James: Glenn James / NBAE via Getty Images)

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