NBA History: 50 best NBA players of the 21st century

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LeBron James
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156. . SF. Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron James. 1. player

50 greatest NBA players from 21st century: 1. LeBron James

No surprises here. LeBron James is the greatest NBA player of this century, if not all-time. He has won four MVP awards, which is comically low when one considers his reputation and the consistency of his production. He has appeared in 17 All-Star games, a number that may still increase further. He has won four rings and been to the Finals 10 (!) times in his 18-year career.

LeBron is the greatest playmaker of his generation, operating on the same level as Chris Paul, Steve Nash, and others on this list. The main difference, of course, is that LeBron is a 6-foot-8 freight train, built to overpower most anyone who steps in his way. James has never been a great shooter, but he has never had trouble putting up points. He led the NBA in scoring in 2007-08 and is one of the more well-rounded scorers we’ve ever seen — a fact that gets too frequently overlooked when admiring everything else he does well.

James needed time and experience to win at the highest level. He didn’t win his first championship until he joined Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, and even then, the Heat lost LeBron’s first go-around in 2011. That said, James has been a near-annual presence in the Finals ever since his fateful decision to join the Heat. He brought two chips to Miami, went back to Cleveland and toppled the 73-win Warriors, and has now brought another trophy to Los Angeles. One can no longer dispute James’ ability to win at the highest level. That ship sailed a long time ago.

In addition to his many offensive achievements, James has made six All-Defensive teams. Given the longevity of his greatness — he led the NBA in assists for the first time in his 17th season — and James’ continuing ability to adjust and adapt over time, there’s no real argument against the No. 1 spot. His case will probably get even stronger before he retires, with a fifth MVP win distinctly possible in 2021.

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