Lakers Star LeBron James Issued Strong Challenge from Rookie Lottery Pick

LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

Getty LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

Usually, when a rookie enters the NBA, they speak about their excitement of playing against their idols, and how they can’t wait to witness the greatness of LeBron James and the allure of the Los Angeles Lakers up close.

However, Bennedict Mathurin, who was drafted with the sixth overall pick by the Indiana Pacers on June 23, decided to take a different approach when asked about the self-proclaimed king.

“A lot of people say he’s great. I want to see how great he is. I don’t think anybody is better than me. He’s going to have to show me he’s better than me,” Mathurin said during an interview with the Washington Post. 

Every player in the NBA holds a certain amount of self-belief – it’s a prerequisite of making it into the big leagues, but it would seem the Pacers’ newest addition could be setting himself up for a hard fall, especially if he’s comparing himself to LeBron.

LeBron Had Another Elite Season

Despite being 37 years old, LeBron had few contemporaries this past season, as he continued to defy the aging process and prove that he remains one of the league’s elite talents.

Sure, the Akron native was unable to remain as healthy as he once did, and needed some additional load management, but when he was on the court, few could slow him down. Over his 56 regular-season appearances for the Lakers last season, LeBron averaged 30.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 6.2 assists per game while shooting 35.9% from deep and 52.4% from the field. 

So, while Mathurin might have the advantage of youth, if LeBron continues to perform at the level we saw last season, the six-foot-six rookie will soon learn about what it’s like to play against LeBron, and maybe then he will understand that there are levels to the NBA, and right now, as a rookie, he has a long way to go before he can challenge for a spot among the league’s best – if he ever gets there.

Mathurin is Aiming High

Before joining the Pacers on draft night, Mathurin had spent two years playing with Arizona in the collegiate ranks, and this past season, he enjoyed a breakout year, averaging 17.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per gamer while shooting 36.9% from deep and 45% from the field.

Perhaps that jump in production is why the rookie is so self-assured about his ability to continue growing his game, and ultimately being recognized as one of the best players in the league.

“Mathurin seems eager for new and bigger tests. His professional goals are as lofty as possible: Win the 2023 rookie of the year award, an MVP, and a championship en route to induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame,” Ben Golliver wrote in his profile of Mathurin on June 24.

Before the multi-skilled guard can begin making good on his challenge, he will first need to earn a role within the Pacers rotation and prove himself against some of the better teams in the Eastern Conference, such as the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics. If Mathurin can provide some good showings in his own conference, Rick Carlisle might give him the opportunity to play against LeBron, and maybe then, the aging superstar can prove just how good he still is.

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