Having played 20 years in the NBA after coming out of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School as the most highly touted high school prospect in league history, Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James is no stranger to criticisms, player rankings or outsized expectations. That isn't to say James has never bristled at comments about him or levied towards him, and there are multiple moments that have been caught on camera in which LeBron was clearly less than enthused to learn someone else's thoughts about him.
However, it'll be interesting to see how James responds to the rise of Denver Nuggets star center Nikola Jokic, a player that an increasingly vocal chorus of supporters have started to proclaim as the best player in the NBA. A group that seemingly includes Lakers teammate D'Angelo Russell, who tells Philadelphia 76ers guard Patrick Beverley on The Pat Bev Podcast with Rone that the Nuggets have “the best player in basketball.”
“They got the best player in basketball on they team,” D'Lo says, “no disrespect to nobody. He's the best player in the NBA right now.”
Jokic is an incredibly intriguing basketball talent, capable of not just handling the ball up the floor at 6-foot-11 and 284 pounds but of making virtually any pass, scoring from a wide variety of bases and angles from the paint to the perimeter, and consistently demonstrating his quick hands on the defensive end.
It's at a point where the conversation truly isn't about whether or not Jokic is the best center in the league anymore –despite Sixers center Joel Embiid center being the reigning MVP (Embiid's new teammate, Beverley, agrees with Russell by the way) — but if he's the best player in the NBA today and where he ranks all-time.
LeBron has always been every bit of the passer Jokic is, and there isn't much separation in their defensive impact with the 38-year-old James only getting older. That said, unless LeBron becomes more aggressive when crashing the glass or gets a little more touch on his jumper, Jokic may very well have the edge in terms of who makes the largest impact today.