Lakers Star LeBron James Draws Hefty Praise From Utah Big Man

LeBron James, Lakers

Getty LeBron James, Lakers

LeBron James boasts a resume few in NBA history can stack up to. But still, the Los Angeles Lakers star finds criticism at nearly every turn.

How James deals with being in the spotlight and having his name constantly tossed around is something Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert appreciates about the four-time MVP.

“The better you get, the more people talk and the more people are either going to praise you or adopt you or criticize you, so I kind of started to embrace it and take every kind of criticism as, in a way, a compliment,” Gobert said in a recent interview with Sam Amick of The Athletic. “I mean, look at LeBron. He was actually the most criticized player of our generation, and he’s the one who has accomplished the most.”

Large Extension Has Put Rudy Gobert Under Microscope

Gobert signed a five-year, $205 million contract extension with the Jazz this offseason, putting the play of the two-time Defensive Player of the Year under the microscope. One of his most vocal critics has been Lakers legend Shaquille O’Neal.

“I would had 45 pts 16 rebound ten missed free throws in three quarters,” O’Neal wrote in January on Instagram while addressing their beef. “He woulda had 11 pts four rebounds and fouled out in 3 quarters. I’m a G.”

O’Neal’s initial comments came during an appearance on the “All Things Covered” podcast.

“I’m not gonna hate, but this should be an inspiration to all the little kids out there,” he said. “You average 11 points in the NBA, you can get $200 million.”

Gobert is averaging 13.3 points and 13.4 rebounds this year, also notching 2.7 blocks per game —  good for second in the NBA. The Jazz have the best record in the NBA at 16-5 as of Thursday.

LeBron James Getting Praise From Opponents

LeBron James, Lakers

GettyLeBron James, Lakers

James is the MVP frontrunner at 36 years old in his 18th NBA season, averaging 25 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.5 assists. He’s also shooting a career-high 40.9% from 3-point land, a testament to how his game has evolved over the years.

“You have to change with the times, I guess. You have to continue to evolve,” James told reporters after hitting a season-high 7 3-pointers against the Cavaliers during the Lakers’ recent road trip. “For me, never putting a cap on my ceiling. I just want to always continue to get better and do things out on the floor that maybe hasn’t been done in other people’s careers.”

James has the respect of his peers and opposing coaches, which became evident before a recent matchup with the Celtics.

“He’s as special as special gets,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said, per Kevin Smith of Yahoo Sports. “He’d be a multiple-time more MVP winner if people didn’t get bored and look for other things to discuss.”

Dwyane Wade: ‘Does LeBron Have a Weakness?’

Celtics guard Kemba Walker had a similar take to Gobert on how James deals with the criticism and expectations.

“Man, LeBron is a different breed. He’s just incredible,” Walker said, via NESN. “Always so much pressure on that man and he always comes through regardless of what’s said about him. Like I said he’s really just an inspiring person in our world. He’s someone that everyone looks up to, wishes to be like. He’s a special talent.”

What’s scary for the rest of the NBA is that James’ former teammate Dwyane Wade said that James is playing his best basketball.

“Now I watch his game and I say, ‘Does he have a weakness in his game?’ It starts from the rim all the way back to half court,” Wade told the No Chill with Gilbert Arenas podcast. “He can do everything. Let’s take it all the way back from the rebound. He does everything now. He’s shooting in the high 40s now and his range is out to the logo. You know midrange, he can post you up, face you up. Still going to dunk on you. His ability to see the floor is so much better now because he’s seen every coverage.”

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