Spurs’ Gregg Popovich Marvels At Lakers Star LeBron James
LeBron James, Gregg Popovich, Lakers, Spurs
Eric Gay-AP Photo

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James and San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich have seen plenty of each other over the years. Popovich was already in charge of things with the Spurs franchise when James entered the league in 2003, and over the last 20 years, the two have faced off for 43 regular season games and 16 postseason games.

It’s been a back and forth battle, too, as James is 23-20 against Popovich in the regular season — including Friday night’s Lakers win — but is 5-11 all-time in the playoffs.

Basically, no one coach has gotten a closer look at James’ on-court brilliance than Popovich. And as both near the ends of their historic and legendary careers, they are able to take some more time to appreciate what they saw from one another instead of focusing so heavily on the competitive aspect.

That was what Friday night was about after the Lakers took care of business and defeated the Spurs 123-118 behind 30 points, seven rebounds and nine assist from James.

Popovich spoke about James’ performance and how impressive it is for him to be doing what he’s doing at his age with 20 years of mileage in the NBA.

“I can’t believe you said that. I really enjoyed watching him. I did,” Popovich said. “It was a day where you wanted him to shoot and you get off him but he didn’t really want to shoot, he just wanted to pass because he’s such a great player all around. Obviously for years he’s done both, so it was just fun to watch him. You look at his age, his conditioning, what he does, he’s a miracle. He really is. He’s something else.”

Popovich then took some time to comment on James’ potential retirement and whether or not the Lakers superstar should do some sort of farewell tour. This was in response to James saying he might “Tim Duncan” it and announce his retirement with no fanfare whatsoever.

“Whatever he wants. He deserves to do exactly what he wants to do because he’s been spectacular for so long and he’s done it with class, with people putting him under a microscope for this, that or the other.

“As you well know, in the beginning, if he shot it, they said he should’ve passed it. If he passed it, they said he didn’t want to shoot it, back and forth. And he just plays and he plays to win. To each his own, he owes nobody anything as far as how he should do something. What pleases him and his family is really what’s important.”

After all the battles between James and Popovich, it is clear there is an immense respect that exists from one to the other. It’s impossible not to given that they’ve both accomplished just about everything a player or coach can during a career.

The praise between the two will only grow as they both venture toward retirement, even if it doesn’t seem like either is ready to stop just yet.

LeBron James sees special future for Victor Wembanyama

James had a chance to dive into what he likes about the young Spurs star, Victor Wembanyama, and how he thinks his situation in San Antonio is the perfect one for him to develop into a true superstar.

“I’ve been asked about Victor before, and I just think he’s going to continue to get better and better and better and better the more games he plays,” James said during All-Star Weekend. “He has one of the greatest coaches in basketball history in Coach Pop, and he’s going to learn it the right way by just being around Pop. Pop is one of my favorite guys.

“The kid is special. He’s going to continue to get better and better. If he’s doing that at 19 now, just imagine what he’s going to look like at 21, 22. So a special kid.”

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