AFTER ELEVEN SEASONS in the NBA, the greatness of LeBron James is still not truly appreciated by many.
James is not the biggest player in the NBA. He is not the best passer, the best shooter, or the best rebounder. But he is the best player because there is nobody else with his combinations of skills, size, and the one part of his game that is underappreciated, speed.
During the Heat’s 109-102 win over the Lakers, there was one play that showed perfectly why James is so great.
As Ryan Kelly starts his jump shot on the wing in front of the Heat bench, James is the closest player to the basket. He also takes a peak up the court and sees that nobody is going to challenge him for a rebound. He also sees that there is a clear path for a fast break.
Before Kelly’s shot has even hit the rim, LeBron has already scored two points. Just before the ball hits the rim, LeBron has already started moving. Instead of facing the basket and grabbing a standard rebound, he has turned up the court and catches the rebound in mid-stride. While other players are still reacting, LeBron is already in a full sprint.
But here is where James unleashes his secret weapon. Maybe the most underappreciated aspect of LeBron’s game is his speed. When he first grabs the ball, there is only one Laker behind him.
After just five strides, there are now four Lakers behind LeBron and the last Laker is in big trouble.
There are bigger players and better shooters in the NBA. But Lebron is basically a sprinter in a tight end’s body.
Now mix that speed with immense power and that is what separates LeBron James from the rest of the league and maybe everybody else in the history of the NBA.