While almost one-quarter of the 26 players who participated in an ESPN The Magazine poll think LeBron James will finish as the best NBA player ever, none of them would want him taking the last shot if Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant were also on the floor.
James received decidedly mixed reviews from the players, all of whom were granted anonymity, in the poll conducted for the magazine's NBA preview issue.
Asked which player they wanted to take the last shot with the clock winding down and a game on the line, 88 percent of the players picked Jordan, with Bryant getting the other 12 percent.
"That's like ranking the shortest giant," an Eastern Conference guard said. "I'd want the ball in LeBron's hands at the end of the game, but I'd want him to pass to Kobe or Jordan for the last shot. And don't forget, LeBron is not a great free throw shooter, either."
According to ESPN Stats & Information, James actually is a better shooter from the field than Bryant on game-tying or go-ahead field goals in the final 24 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime of postseason games. He checks in at 41.2 percent (7-for-17), while Bryant is at 25 percent (7-for-28). Jordan rules that stat, though, at 50 percent (9-for-18).
Yet, 23 percent of players polled think James will be considered the best player in history when his career is over.
"I don't know if he'll be able to match Michael Jordan's rings, but he'll be top 10 in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals when his career is over," a former teammate said. "To do that in this era, you have to call LeBron the greatest ever."
Other numbers back that argument as well. James has led the league in player efficiency rating, a measure of a player's per-minute production, for six straight seasons. If he does it again this season, he'd tie Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain for most consecutive seasons leading the league in PER. James' 27.65 PER trails only Jordan's 27.91 all time.
To put that into perspective, the league-average PER is 15.