Not a second has gone by in LeBron James' career without him being compared to another great player. Once he was anointed the next great player during his high school days, it was all downhill from there.
But now that he has one of the all-time great resumes in sports, the comparisons can be treated as an honor, rather than pressure he has to live up to. And if you ask Shaquille O'Neal, who spoke with Cleveland.com ahead of the NBA Finals, LeBron is a combination of an elite group of greats who came before him:
He's a mixture of Michael, Shaq and Magic. Shaq, because he's bigger and stronger than everybody. Michael because he can score whenever he feels like it. And Magic because he does a great job getting everybody else involved. He's been like that his whole career. Even in high school. I knew he was a special guy in high school.
I've only met two people like him, him and Kobe. Guys that were super determined ever since high school and accomplished all their dreams, and just wanted to be realized and recognized as one of the greatest and both had extraordinary careers.
That's high praise from O'Neal, who plenty of hoop heads believe is a top 10-20 player in the history of the sport in his own right. It's also a departure from what some of the other old heads have to say about LeBron, who always seem convinced things were much better back in their day.
Though it's a bold claim on Shaq's behalf, it's not necessarily wrong. We haven't really seen a player LeBron's size able to do so many different things well, whether it's scoring the basketball inside and outside or throwing a cross-court pass most people wouldn't dare even attempt. Being a combination of those players doesn't mean he's better than all of them, but he's proven enough to be in the conversation as the GOAT when all is said and done.
If he can knock off the Warriors in the Finals once again, it'll be a cherry on top of an already spectacular career. Regardless, he's achieved more than anyone could have reasonably expected when he left St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio.
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