With LeBron knocked out of the playoffs, his name has been bounced around in many conversations, GOAT status reports, and what he is doing next season in year twenty, but going back in time to his first couple years, it is easy to forget many stars he had faced who were at the end of their time on a retirement tour. LeBron’s longevity is already a highly regarded one, but this list may shock you by showing how long he has really played in the NBA.
LeBron has since passed up Karl Malone’s all-time scoring record to get the number two spot, but two of the greatest scorers in NBA history played each other at the end of ones and beginning of the others. While Karl Malone and LeBron faced off in the preseason only due to Karl only playing in forty-six games, barely missing LeBron, there is picture evidence but no stats on the game. Karl Malone played 1,476 games in the NBA, for one of those seasons to collide with LeBron’s is insane even if they hadn’t played. Karl played against legends such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jack Sikma, and Michael Jordan just to show long he played for.
Unlike the last matchup, Reggie Miller and LeBron James played each other seven times in their time sharing seasons. Reggie played until 2005, meaning they got to play two seasons together while also being in the same conference. In that span, Reggie’s Pacers dominated, going 5-2 against the Cavs. Reggie himself, however, did not. LeBron averaged twenty-five points per game in their matchups while Reggie averaged a measly twelve, but not bad for a player nearing forty years of age. Reggie now talks about LeBron on TV and has even commentated or reported on some of LeBron’s games, playing him for the last time seventeen years ago.
Toni Kukoč played from 1993 all the way to 2006, winning three championships with Michael Jordan and the Bulls in the final three-peat as well as getting the Sixth-Man-of-the-Year award in 1996. Toni and LeBron played a total of eleven times and unlike Reggie Miller, LeBron did well against him. Kukoč finished his career in Milwaukee and when playing LeBron and the Cavaliers, it was some of his worst games. The Cavaliers beat the Bucks six out of eleven games played, and LeBron went on to average 30.6 points per game compared to Toni’s 4.6. LeBron also dropped a fifty-two point game on them, one of the first of his career. Toni didn’t fare well against LeBron and was not noticed much in the games, the most points he was able to put up against the king only being ten. Toni may have played with the debatable “GOAT” but LBJ showed him what the new kid on the block could do.
Another guy who won championships with Michael Jordan was Horace Grant, he too got pummeled by the kid from Akron. They played twice in LeBron’s rookie season, Horace and the Lakers did win both games but LeBron was the only one putting on a show in LA (besides Kobe and Shaq, obviously). LeBron averaged 24 points per game while Horace put up a solid but nothing to write home about 8.5. The only thing Horace really did better was rebound, averaging 10.5 per game compared to LeBron’s 4.5. With the second of their games being an overtime bout against a championship level Lakers and a lottery version of the Cavaliers, it really showed the immediate impact LeBron had. Also a fun fact about the last of their two meetings in January of 2004 Donald Trump had a front row seat to the game as well as Leonardo DiCaprio and Will Ferrell.
LeBron is going into year twenty and shows no sign of slowing down, it’ll be crazy to think in twenty years some stud of a player will have a list with LeBron’s name on it. LeBron will go down as one of the best to ever do it, and to see where he started is even weirder. Talking about any player older than the Oklahoma City Thunder is always fun, especially when it’s LeBron James.