If the NBA stars of the 90s built their brand through pop culture crossovers and the NBA stars of the 2010s made their name through fashion world connections, 2023 is the NBA’s year of the social media sound byte. With traditional media access curtailed by COVID precautions over the previous few seasons, players like Draymond Green and Patrick Beverley have pioneered a new wave of players who have no reservations about giving fans direct (if heavily brand managed) access to their true feelings. On the latest episode of the NBA.com video series Pass the Rock, Thunder superstar Shai Gilgeous-Alexander became the latest player to give an unvarnished look into their lives and confessed his true thoughts about LeBron James.
“I never liked [LeBron’s] game,” Gilgeous-Alexander said when asked about how James influenced his growth as a player. “To me, when I was younger, he was just super athletic, I wasn’t that. He was 6’8”, and super strong and I wasn’t that either.”
While this seems like a shot at arguably the best basketball players of all time, it’s actually a sign of respect and deference towards James. Whereas a young player can imagine imitating Steph Curry’s shooting or Kyrie Irving’s ball-handling, Lebron James’ athleticism exists beyond the realm of possibility even for a guy like SGA.
To be sure, this isn’t the first time that Gilgeous-Alexander has offered a spicy take about Lebron James and the never-ending GOAT debate. In November 2022, he controversially deemed Kobe Bryant the greatest player of all time, putting James in second and Michael Jordan in third.
“Kobe is Michael Jordan just on steroids,” SGA passionately argued to a kid. “Kobe has five rings…I’m saying all-around, Kobe Bryant. … Competitive nature, championships, there’s a lot of stuff that goes into it.”
“Kobe one. Bron two. Mike three,” the Thunder guard continued. “They’re all amazing. They’re all the best ever.”