(Editor's Note: Shane Battier is a former Miami Heat teammate of LeBron James, who is poised to become the NBA's all-time leading scorer. Battier played in the NBA for 13 seasons, the last three of them with James in Miami. He shared some memorable moments with The Associated Press of what he witnessed during their time together with the Heat.)
There was a night that I'll never forget as long as I live, and it made me have just such a deeper appreciation for who LeBron James was as a person, as a man, as a player.
We were in Boston in 2012, during the playoffs, no love lost from Boston fans. We're walking to dinner and a car slows down next to us. A guy said, "Hey LeBron, I hate you, you suck." He rolls up the window and proceeds down the street.
As players we're used to being called names and whatnot. But at that moment I understood all the stuff he had to deal with from Day 1 and being on the cover of Sports Illustrated at 16 and being No. 1 in the draft and being the most hyped athlete maybe ever, the most famous athlete maybe ever at every step of the way. There wasn't a moment where he could hide behind a teammate, hide behind a coach.
He's always proven he can handle it. He handled it that time, too.
The next night was Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals. We all know what Game 6 was for us, right? If we lose Game 6, then we all have new addresses the next year. The Big Three is a Dumpster fire of an experiment that failed at the highest level. And legacies were on the line, from LeBron to Pat Riley to Erik Spoelstra, you name it. We knew what the implications of losing that Game 6 would be. (Editor's Note: Miami trailed the Celtics, 3-2 and James had 45 points, 15 rebounds and five assists in Game 6 to save the season, one where the Heat went on to win the NBA title.)
I played baseball growing up. The way he played that night was the closest thing to watching a no-hitter, a perfect game. We sort of nudged, sort of elbowed each other on the bench and said, "Oh my gosh, this guy's a monster." We didn't want to talk about it. We tried to be cool. But, I'm sorry, we'd never seen anything like this. And we've all seen everything in the game. You want to look up determination in the dictionary? It'd be LeBron James. It was the greatest display of will that I saw in my entire career because of the circumstances, because of the consequences, because of the team we played. The Celtics had no shot that night. I had never seen anything like it, even to this day.
In my mind, he's the greatest player of all time. I'm biased, I know that, but I'm allowed to be. And I know we said this with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, we said this with Wilt Chamberlain, we said this with Michael Jordan, but I don't think we'll see someone like LeBron James ever again.
AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports