Why LeBron James' greatest ally in getting baskets has been ... LeBron James

(AP Photo/Jess Rapfogel)

Editor's note: This story was originally published on Dec. 30, 2022.

LeBron James has used a version of the following quote dozens of times over the past 20 seasons:

"I'm confident in my ability, and the best thing about it is my teammates allow me to do that."

He said this about his Cleveland Cavaliers teammates as a teenager, about his Miami Heat teammates playing alongside future Hall of Famers, again after returning to the Cavs playing with multiple other All-Stars, and now with the Los Angeles Lakers in the record-breaking phase of his career.

The implication is that James' teammates have routinely and freely allowed him to control and score the ball, a natural game plan with him on the roster. As a result, James, who turned 38 in December, has broken the regular-season record for scoring. It's a mark Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had held since six months before James was born in 1984. (When including playoff scoring, James had already slipped past Abdul-Jabbar in February.)

But the totality in which James' teammates have, in essence, stood back and allowed him to use his power, skill and ambidexterity to score more than anyone in the history of the game is perhaps undersold. If anything regarding James this deep into his career can be undersold, this might be it. Because they have really stood back.

To illustrate the point, let's start with a trivia question that even the most devoted James fans might have to take a few moments to mull over:

Who has assisted James the most in his career?