At All-Star Weekend, the NBA honored their official list of the 76 greatest players to ever play the game of basketball. Of course, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James was one of the main faces honored, as he has built perhaps the greatest resume the NBA has ever seen.
While there have been a number of all-time greats in NBA history, there have only been a few who have truly become the defining player of their generation. Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and James have all — in their era — been the “faces” of the NBA.
For James, that is a responsibility he takes very seriously, and it’s a task he has been wildly successful at for nearly two decades. “It’s a responsibility, for sure,” James said at All-Star Weekend. “Somebody did it before me and put it in a position where it was my responsibility to make sure I kept it where it was and also make it even more grand and make it better than what it was and represent this league with the utmost respect. I’m seeing my brother Carmelo walk down the hall right there.
“But just not only play the game the right way, but also mean something off the floor as well because there are so many generations that look for inspiration. It’s always pretty cool to see the guys that come into our league and they say their favorite player growing up was LeBron James.”
James went on to add that he hopes he is making as big of an impact off the court as he is on it.
“That means something to me because I feel like I have so much more to do than just playing the game of basketball,” James said of his off-court impact. “I hope it was also how I inspired them off the floor, how to break the narrative of keeping your friends around and them being able to work a room without my presence, being able to give back to your community in a way if you feel passionate about it.
“I’ve held that title of the ambassador of the league for — nobody ever told me to do it, but I felt like if I wasn’t going to do it, who was going to do it? I took that with a lot of responsibility, and I’ll continue to do it until I’m done playing the game. It will fall in the hands of the next one, whoever that may be. We’ll see.”
Although he is still playing at an elite level, James is clearly on the tail end of his illustrious career. However, he has managed to maintain his status as the face of the league by being a dominant force on the court and an active benefit to his communities off the court.
It’s unclear at this point who could take the reign from James when he ultimately retires, but there are plenty of excellent face-of-the-league candidates in the NBA already. Rest assured that when he is out of the NBA, it will be left in great hands.
James credits Jordan for career influence
During the NBA 75 celebration, two of the greatest players of all time in James and Jordan got a chance to publicly be face-to-face on the court. “[T]here was so much chaos going on after we all kind of split,” James said.
“I did not want to lose the opportunity to shake the man’s hand that inspired me throughout my childhood. I haven’t had much dialogue with him in my 20 years or 19 years in this business, but part of me wouldn’t be here without MJ’s inspiration.
“I always wanted to be like him growing up.”
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