7 Times LeBron James Was Genuinely Frightening on the Court

Mario Chalmers recently said in an interview that "nobody fears LeBron." We compiled seven moments of times that LeBron James was genuinely frightening.

LeBron James wearing a mask for the Miami Heat

Image via Getty/Marc Serota

LeBron James wearing a mask for the Miami Heat

Since LeBron James entered the NBA twenty years ago, he has consistently wowed crowds with his world-class athleticism, explosiveness, and power. The man isn’t just an elite basketball mind but also a physical marvel, a specimen at 6-foot-9, 250 pounds who can still jump out of the gym and could probably perform thrusters with Zion Williamson for reps. At 38 years old, he’s averaging nearly 30 points a game this year.

Impressiveness aside, a growing chorus of ex-players have suggested that he was nobody worth worrying about during their times in the league. For example, James’ former Miami Heat teammate Mario Chalmers recently drew headlines when he boldly claimed that “Nobody fears Bron.”

Chalmers said opponents are not intimidated when they think about playing against James, contrasting it with the way opponents felt about facing Michael Jordan in MJ’s heyday.

“You hear anybody from that era talk about going against Jordan, there’s a fear,” Chalmers said.

Chalmers isn’t alone in holding that opinion among former NBA foes. Gilbert Arenas said LeBron isn’t feared because he’s an “all-around player” instead of merely an explosive scorer. Chandler Parsons said he was more fearful of guarding Kevin Durant than LeBron. And Shaq said “nobody was ever scared of LeBron.”

These testimonies notwithstanding, there is video evidence of James at least occasionally eliciting fear in opponents throughout his career. We’ve seen multiple examples over the years of players cowering away from the league’s top dog. Given how much pestering and physical abuse he has endured—there was a stretch between 2005 and 2016 where he spent every season among the NBA’s top 10 free throw attempters—it’s a wonder we’ve never really seen him lose his cool…and his opponents are probably lucky.

Below, check out seven times LeBron James was genuinely frightening on the court.

Chris Paul Makes a Business Decision

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The year was 2019, LeBron’s second in the purple and gold, the season in which he’d go on to win his first (and so far only) title with the Lakers.

Chris Paul is one of LeBron’s good buddies, a member of the banana boat crew, a former Team USA teammate. He’s well aware of LeBron’s ability.

So when CP3 saw LeBron charging charging down the lane unimpeded after a screen from JaVale McGee freed him up, Paul had a choice to make: (1) take a swipe for a steal attempt, (2) try to draw a charge, or (3) get the hell out of the way. Paul probably flashed back in that moment to Jason Terry getting posterized and—wisely—chose option 3. 

We call that a business decision. It was one of many from LeBron’s career.

Run, Lonzo!

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Given how long he’s been in the league and how instrumental he’s been in its functioning, LeBron has a layered history with many of his opponents. Among them: Lonzo Ball.

LeBron joined the Lakers in 2018, one year after L.A. had drafted Lonzo, which made his dad LaVar look like a prophet. James and Ball played together for one year before Klutch Sports—I mean the Lakers—traded Lonzo, among others, to the New Orleans Pelicans for Anthony Davis.

That is to say, as with Chris Paul, Lonzo is well aware of what LeBron can do. And, as with Paul, Lonzo was faced with a choice last year when his Bulls faced the Lakers and LeBron had a head of steam approaching the basket. 

How about some defense, Lonzo? No thank you. Lonzo didn’t even try to stop LeBron or get in his way. He sprinted away, his body language conveying, “please don’t dunk on me!”

John Lucas Never Stood a Chance

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The Bulls earned back-to-back shout-outs on this list.

After a decorated run at Oklahoma State, John Lucas III had a long pro career bouncing around the NBA, the G League, and international leagues. He spent one season (2011-12) with Chicago—a season that, for him, will be most remembered for LeBron literally jumping over him.

A screen from Chalmers led to the 5-foot-11 Lucas switching onto James (who was originally being guarded by Rip Hamilton). Lucas had his back to James, though, so he didn’t figure out what was happening until LeBron’s knee was on his head. After the dunk, LeBron turned and postured at Lucas, like, “get out of my way, little boy!” Lucas quickly backed away.

LeBron must’ve liked that Lucas stepped back from him, because Lucas is currently an assistant coach with the Lakers.

Taking Souls for the Redeem Team

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The 2008 Olympic men’s basketball team is known as the “Redeem Team” for its role in restoring glory to Team USA. It was a star-studded squad, but the two most important figures were LeBron and Kobe Bryant.

In a preliminary round match against Angola, Team USA was the clear favorite—USA was the best team in Group B, and Angola was the worst.

LeBron let Angola know just how overmatched they were as the end of the second quarter approached. With Team USA leading 39-27, LeBron came down from help-side position to support Carlos Boozer. James wound back and absolutely volleyball-spiked a fadeaway attempt by Angola’s Felizardo Ambrósio.

Ambrósio pushed himself back from James on the floor and brought his hands together as if to say, “I surrender, sir.”

Austin Rivers Makes it Clear He Didn’t Mean It

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LeBron’s title with the Lakers came in the Bubble, in 2020, when the league returned to play as Covid lockdowns were lifted. The Lakers were facing the James Harden-Russell Westbrook Rockets in the West semifinals, and they were nearing an easy 4-1 series win.

Austin Rivers was frustrated—not only because his season was about to end, but also because he’d just picked up back-to-back fouls—and he let his frustration get the best of him, smacking the ball following the second call. But the ball inadvertently hit LeBron in the dome. Uh-oh.

Immediately, LeBron turned around, puffing out his chest, looking ready to get in Rivers’ face. But Rivers quickly stuck his arm out as a peace offering like, “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to do it!


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Kristaps Porzingis is 7-foot-3 with a 7-foot-6 wingspan. For his size, he’s an incredibly versatile athlete. He’s also 11 years younger than LeBron.

None of that kept him from seeking help when, earlier this season, he was faced with the prospect of guarding LeBron in a clutch situation. The Lakers and Wizards were knotted at 95 in the fourth quarter, and as things got settled in transition, Porzingis found himself staring down King James. He didn’t like the matchup.

Porzingis initially played a few feet off LeBron before thinking better of it. He called for teammate Will Barton to switch. 

It didn’t matter. LeBron drilled a stepback 3, and the Lakers won 130-119

I’ll Take The Jumper, Thanks

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The early-2010s Clippers were loaded. Chris Paul. Blake Griffin. DeAndre Jordan. Jamal Crawford. Oh, and JJ Redick to boot.

These days, Redick is one of ESPN’s go-to NBA commentators, but back then he was the Clippers’ newest weapon and one of the league’s deadliest shooters.

Redick, to his credit, knew himself: he was a 6-foot-4 deep threat. Not a bad athlete, of course, but not exactly a rim-rattler. In other words: he was not LeBron.

So when LeBron entered the picture of Redick’s apparently open road to the basket, the former Duke star made a rational decision. Instead of attempting a layup or dunk, or trying to draw a foul, Redick settled for a lower-percentage shot: a short, pull-up jumper.

He didn’t want any part of a battle with Bron.

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