On Saturday night, Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James entered the top 10 among all-time NBA scorers, passing Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon and adding one more accolade to his stellar career. That achievement brought about comparisons to other players on that list. In the opinion of his head coach, Tyronn Lue, James’ overall impact on the game is more powerful than another player among that hallowed group: retired guard Kobe Bryant.
Lue has the background to assess both players, having spent a portion of his playing career with Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers. In speaking with ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, Lue believes that James’s all-around ability gives him the edge in any assessment.
“I don’t think he gets the credit for scoring the basketball,” Lue said. “I think just because he has a great all-around game as far as rebounding, passing the basketball, defensively (and) blocking shots. He’s a great all-around player, so we sometimes forget how great of a scorer he is. And he’s right up there with those guys. They had a different mentality as far as Kobe wants to score, kill you every single night. But LeBron will beat you in every facet of the game.”
Due to the fact that James can do everything well, Lue believes that his scoring ability gets overlooked by both fans and media.
“They talk about his passing ability, his unselfishness, the way he rebounds the basketball and pushes the basketball, but he’s a scorer also and people leave that out,” Lue said. “He’s averaging 25 points a game the last, what, 12 years? C’mon. That’s a scorer to me. But because his all-around game is so great, you kind of miss out on his scoring. To pass Hakeem Olajuwon, as a kid growing up watching Hakeem and to say that I can pass him on a top-10 scoring list, he deserves it because he’s putting the work in.”
The fact that he passed Olajuwon allowed James the opportunity to offer an anecdote that indicated his constant desire to improve his game.
“I knew he (Olajuwon) worked guys out that wanted to get better and I wanted to expand my game,” James said. “So, it’s not hard for me to reach somebody, and I wanted to expand my game in the low post. I felt like if I could do that then I could be more dynamic and make our team better, so, couple phone calls here and I was able to make it happen.”
While proud of the honor, James still considers other aspects of his game as being more important.
“For me, scoring has never been on my list of goals,” James said. “Facilitating, getting my guys involved, and rebounding, defending, getting blocked shots and things of that nature always ranked above that, and for me to be in the top 10 with so many great players that’s played this game — I don’t know how many, I don’t even know the list of how many guys have played in this league since the inaugural year — but … it’s just a blessing. It’s an honor.”
Next month, James will look to pass the No. 9 player on the scoring list, Elvin Hayes.