The young LeBron James was quick to name himself “The King” of basketball. High flying dunks and emphatic finishes to the rim were just some of his many ways of controlling the game. But for James, not everyone enjoys his nightly attacks on the rim.
Not everyone is so quick to stand aside and let him rule the league. Over the years, he’s had countless competitors, all of whom would consider James a great enemy. Here’s five of his greatest rivals; the ones who have truly tested the limits of James’ legacy:
5. The Spurs
It just wouldn’t seem right to include only ONE name from this legendary ball club, so I included the entire team. Throughout his whole career, the Spurs have always stood in the way. There were times when they beat The King, like in 2007 and 2014. Other times, James bested them, like in 2013. During all of those amazing Finals series, the Spurs seemed to have a great recipe for slowing down LeBron, and he had to learn to adapt his game in order to win it all.
Now, with Tim Duncan retired (and Manu soon to follow), the best of James vs San Antonio may be over, but it will always stand as one of James’ biggest tests.
4. Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant has a freakishly good skill set. Handles like a guard, shoots lights out, and a crazy long wing span. For all that talent, though, he always seems to come in second… behind LeBron James. It’s the constant competition between the two that has cemented Durant as one of The King’s biggest rivals.
Even though Durant has yet to truly surpass James, LeBron has to constantly work to make sure his dominance is never overtaken. With KD joining Golden State, this bitter relationship should only heat up. Aren’t you excited?
3. Stephen Curry
Who knew a small point guard from Davidson would come to be so great? It’s no secret that Curry is widely recognized as the greatest shooter of all time. Well, what do you get when you have the greatest shooter ever versus one of the greatest athletic finishers ever? A wildly entertaining rivalry, that involves a lot of threes and a whole lot of dunks. Them meeting in the finals twice in a row (and most likely a third time), only serves to solidify this matchup even more.
Steph may be the only player that can truly overtake James as the best in the game. But as long as LeBron is able, he will not easily give up his throne for anybody. Especially for a six foot, three-inch guard from Davidson.
2. Kobe Bryant
Two of the greatest players of the generation: Kobe and LeBron. When James first came into the league, claiming himself to be the “Chosen One”, Kobe was neither phased nor amused. Maybe that was what made this rivalry so sweet, the fact the Kobe never backed down from anybody. An unstoppable force meeting an immovable object.
Although they sadly never met in the finals, their careers will always be compared to each other. While there was always tons of respect between the two superstars, they both knew that only one of them could be the greatest.
1. Paul Pierce
James and Pierce have met 34 TIMES in their NBA careers. Surprisingly, The Truth holds the edge, beating LBJ a total of 19 times during their head-to-head match-ups. What makes this LBJ’s greatest rival, though, is not anything you could find in a numbers book. It’s the way these two play each other when they face off. Pure rugged toughness and raging hunger steam off when the two go head-to-head.
There is also the several times these two faced off in the post-season, which was just must-see tv. For James, and for Pierce, they both knew the only path to the top was through each other…and they wouldn’t have it any other way.