Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James has hit the court with a number of talented players over the course of his 17 seasons in the NBA. Along the way, the Akron, Ohio native has claimed three championships, but he has had some help.
In this piece, we’ll take a look back at LeBron James’ greatest teammates.
10. JR Smith
Ah, yes … JR Swisherhouse, the shirtless assassin.
With all due respect to Mo Williams here, JR Smith gets this spot on this list because of his contributions to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ first-ever championship. Some critics point to Smith’s lapse in judgment during the 2018 NBA Finals, when he seemed to forget the score. Still, there is no denying that he was a big part of why the Cavs reached that point in four consecutive seasons.
A microwave on the floor, Smith could get hot at the drop of a hat. Without his pair of 3-pointers in Game 7 of 2016 NBA Finals, the Cavs may have never claimed their first championship.
9. Anderson Varejao
Andy V became one of LeBron James’ longest-tenured teammates. In fact, Varejao ranks second to Zydrunas Ilgauskas in career games played alongside The King.
After eight seasons together, their bond on the floor was evident. However, Varejao joined the Golden State Warriors midway through the 2015-16 campaign. Of losing his longtime friend and teammate to a rival team, James noted that it’s “the worst part of business.”
“You lose a brother, you lose a teammate,” James said of Varejao joining the Warriors, via cleveland.com. “That’s the worst part about it.”
8. Zydrunas Ilgauskas
For our next entry, we’ll go back in time — all the way back to when LeBron James first entered the league as an 18-year-old phenom out of St. Vincent- St. Mary High School in Akron.
Of all the great teammates LeBron has played with over the years, none have played more games with him than Ilgauskas, who was the Cavs’ starting center when James first arrived. They played seven seasons together in Cleveland and one in Miami.
When the Cavs decided to retire Big Z’s jersey in 2014, LeBron was there, despite the fact that he had left Cleveland for Miami a few years prior.
Simply put, Zydrunas was the rock in the paint a young LeBron needed:
LeBron James congratulated Zydrunas Ilgauskas with the Greater Cleveland Lifetime Achievement Award. Remembers their pick-and-pop game, saying "You talk about all those guys like Porzingis, Z was doing it before."
— Nikki Goel (@nikkigoleft) January 17, 2018
7. Tristan Thompson
“Double T,” as he’s known, has been something like an iron man for the Cavs. In fact, the former Texas Longhorns standout holds the franchise record for consecutive games played (447).
Some say playing alongside LeBron James is difficult, as there are several variables that come into play. Thompson, however, says he enjoyed his time with James, and he’ll always view him as a brother:
“He’s always going to be my brother, regardless,” Thompson said of James in 2018, via Yahoo! Sports. “I wouldn’t say it’s a curse (to play with LeBron). It’s definitely a blessing, because I definitely ate the fruits of his labor really well.”
Though they’re no longer teammates, the bond they created in 2016 will live on forever.
6. Ray Allen
“James catches, puts up the 3 … won’t go! Rebound Bosh, back out to Allen … His 3-pointer … BANG! Tie game with five seconds remaining!”
Those were the words of NBA play-by-play man Mike Breen during the final seconds of Miami’s Game 6 matchup against the Spurs in the 2013 Finals.
With the Heat down three and the shot clock turned off, LeBron James hoisted a 3-pointer from the left wing, but he just missed. Chris Bosh, who we’ll talk more about later, grabbed the offensive rebound over two Spurs defenders, then kicked the ball out to Ray Allen in the corner.
In what became one of the greatest shots in NBA history, Allen’s corner jumper tied the game and led to an overtime period. The momentum from this outstanding shot carried into overtime and Game 7, where the Heat would defend their title from 2012.
While Allen only played two seasons with LeBron and was at the very end of his career, he gets a boost on this list for this shot and his Hall of Fame status.
5. Anthony Davis
When it’s all said and done, Anthony Davis will likely wind up higher on this list, potentially even all the way up at No. 2. The only reason he sits here at No. 5 is because AD and LeBron James haven’t even played a full season together, and the top four on this list all won titles with The King.
The pairing of these two stars has paid off in a big way for the Lakers so far, so let’s see where they take the Purple and Gold from here.
4. Kevin Love
The Cavs acquired Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves the same summer that LeBron James announced he would be returning to Cleveland (2014).
While playing alongside James, Love earned two All-Star nods and helped the Cavs reach four consecutive NBA Finals. His defensive effort against Warriors point guard Stephen Curry in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals was a crucial piece of Cleveland’s first championship.
In the four years he spent as LeBron’s teammate, Love racked up averages of 17 points and 10 rebounds. Love and LeBron didn’t always see eye to eye, but they wound up with a close bond:
“LeBron makes sure you have a chance to win every year,” Love said of James in 2018, via ESPN. “He’s gotten a lot of guys rings. You’re going to win at the highest level. We won and we bonded and we’re going to continue this brotherhood.”
3. Chris Bosh
Alongside Dwyane Wade, who we’ll discuss in just a bit, Chris Bosh and LeBron James gave the Miami Heat their most successful era of basketball. The trio would go on to claim back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013, defeating the Thunder and Spurs, respectively. Sadly, Bosh was later forced to hang up his playing shoes due to blood clots.
When the Heat decided to retire Bosh’s No. 1 jersey in 2019, James was among the first to send his friend and former teammate a congratulatory message:
“Congratulations to my man C. Bosh, C.B. I mean, listen, I don’t win my championships in Miami without him, without you,” James said, via Bleacher Report. “What he meant to that team all those years that he was down there in Miami. When I was there, my four years, or even the couple years that I was gone. He was a true definition of what professional is all about.”
2. Kyrie Irving
Although he eventually requested a trade from the Cavs, the seasons Kyrie Irving spent with LeBron James forged the best era the franchise has ever known.
From no-look lobs to off-the-glass yams, Irving and James gave NBA fans several memorable moments. One of their more notable showings came in Game 5 of the 2016 Finals, when both players scored a whopping 41 points against the Warriors as part of a 112-97 victory.
Were it not for Irving’s clutch shot over the outstretched hand of Stephen Curry in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, the Cavs would not have claimed their first championship. Irving was always ready to take that shot:
“You get a chance to play with Bron, on the same team at that level? You better believe that if that shot comes to me, I’m gonna be ready to take it,” Irving said of his shot, via sportscasting.com. “That fear doesn’t even exist.”
1. Dwyane Wade
Nothing goes together quite like peanut butter and jelly. When it comes to LeBron James’ best teammate, there can be but one answer.
Together, Dwyane Wade and LeBron led the Heat to four consecutive Finals appearances, winning two. Their bond goes beyond any basketball court, though. These two are legit best friends:
“When you’re young and coming into the league, you find guys you have something in common with, then you continue to link and that’s what we did,” Wade once said of his friendship with James, via NBA.com. “It’s organic how we built this friendship.”
Wade announced that he would be retiring following the 2018-19 season. Prior to their last meeting, James noted that it was both sweet and sour to see his brother go:
“It’s sweet and sour,” LeBron said before facing Wade in his last game against the Lakers, via NBA.com. “The sweet part about it is I’ve always loved being on the same floor with my brother. And the sour part about it is that this is our last time sharing the same court.”
Off the court, Wade and James would often hang out together. On the court, however, they would go at one another. As teammates, though, the two stars were a sight to behold:
Ranking the best of LeBron James’ teammates is a tall order, as there are so many to choose from. Other notable names not making this list include: Mo Williams, Chris Andersen, Drew Gooden, Carlos Boozer, Larry Hughes, James Jones, Mike Miller, Shane Battier, Antawn Jamison, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Rajon Rondo and many more.