In an interview with business partners Maverick Carter, Randy Mims and Rich Paul during an episode of ESPN’s “More Than An Athlete” series that aired Sunday night, Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James declared himself the “Greatest of All-Time.” James admitted it was one moment of his career—winning the 2016 NBA Finals with the Cleveland Cavaliers—that made him know he was greater than the likes of Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, Kobe Bryant, and many others.
“That one right there made me the greatest player of all time … that’s what I felt,” James said. “I was super, super ecstatic to win one for Cleveland because of the 52-year drought. … The first wave of emotion was when everyone saw me crying, like, that was all for 52 years of everything in sports that’s gone on in Cleveland. And then after I stopped, I was like — that one right there made you the greatest player of all time.”
“Everybody was just talking — how [the Warriors] were the greatest team of all time, like it was the greatest team ever assembled,” he said. “And for us to come back, you know, the way we came back in that fashion, I was like, ‘You did, you did something special.’ That’s probably one of the only times in my career I felt like, oh, s—, like you did something special. I haven’t had, really had time, to really, like, sit back and think, but that … that was a moment.”
James led Cleveland to the championship after falling behind in the series three games to one against the Golden State Warriors. Cleveland won three straight games—including a LeBron James triple-double and game-saving block in Game 7—to stun the NBA world and win their first title in franchise history. James was the unanimous Finals MVP.
Although James’ name has been included among the all-time greats since bringing a championship to Cleveland, his comments have produced much controversy.
Not only have people been on James’ case on social media, but three former NBA Stars—Hall of Fame forward Kevin McHale, Hall of Fame guard Isiah Thomas and five-time Chris Webber—do not agree with James’ claim. The three found his comments disrespectful and discussed it on NBA TV on Monday, Dec. 31.
Webber did not like the fact that James straight up called himself the greatest basketball player ever and gave him advice.
“I’ve never heard one of the greatest’s say they were the greatest of all-time,” Webber said. “[James must realize] part of your greatness is not answering haters. You don’t have to respond to anybody. You’re one of the best. Stay humble.”
McHale—a three-time NBA championship and a key part of the Boston Celtics dynasty in the 1980s—too gave praise to James for being one of the greats, but did not like how James presented himself on the ESPN special.
“You don’t need to say that about yourself. Let other people say that for you,” McHale said. “It’s disrespectful to the great, great, great players that came before you. I didn’t like how [his comments] sounded.”
Thomas gave the same kind of response to James’ words, but admits he never heard Michael Jordan—a foe—call himself the “Greatest of All-Time.” He also said that if he were in the league today, he would be offended by James’ comments as a player.
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