Shaquille O’Neal states LeBron lacks the fear factor of Kobe or Jordan

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Big Shaq has a polarizing friendship with LeBron James – the legendary center is undeniably one of the greats of the modern-day NBA, but he seems to skip between differing opinions of current-day icon LeBron James. Shaq doesn’t question LeBron’s elite skill set, and it’s hard for anybody to really just look at his numbers.

Either way, though, jealousy and criticism do not escape ex-pros and pundits. Shaq has also admitted he harbors professional jealousy for the Ohio-born superstar, but do his comments about James lacking the fear of Kobe or Michael Jordan have a ring of truth to them?

Do players fear LeBron?

If you were to look at the stats and numbers, you’d have to that say any player who doesn’t fear coming up against LeBron would be causing problems for themselves – even in the twilight of his career. Not only is he the all-time point scorer in NBA history, he’s also in the top five for assists and has featured in every All-Star game since 2005. 

At his peak, he was the driving force behind many iconic teams, named Athlete of the Decade and was included in the 75th Anniversary team. Sportsbooks strongly reflected LeBron’s peak in the late noughties and early 2010s, with teams led by him going into many crunch games as strong favorites. 

At the Cavs and the Heat, LeBron would single-handedly dominate games, with pundits, fans and sports bettors all identifying just how integral he was to the team’s performance. NBA predictions include more than just the performance of the star man, of course, but when a player is as standout as LeBron, they play a seminal role in the team’s performance.

Is there a difference between fear and respect?

Other notable modern-day icons such as Steph Curry are undoubtedly of LeBron’s skill level, and their rivalry continues to bring the best out of both players. There’s a fine line between fear and respect, especially in the elite echelons of the NBA. However, many pundits can see Shaq’s point – LeBron is highly respected but he doesn’t have the fearsome reputation Jordan or Kobe had.

Kobe and especially Jordan had an almost ethereal presence, and when they played at the true peak of their ability, they set standards that nobody had ever seen. Kobe’s 81-point game against the Raptors in 2006 remains the NBA highlight of the century for many basketball fans. 

Netflix’s The Last Dance highlighted just how incredible Jordan was in the Chicago Bull’s dominance of the 1990s. Jordan operated in win mode at all costs, with an almost possessed attitude. Despite all of LeBron’s magical abilities, you can honestly say he has never behaved in this manner. We imagine that is what Shaq is referring to when he says LeBron doesn’t have that standout, fearsome presence that Kobe and Jordan did, once they started firing on all cylinders.

Kobe, Jordan or LeBron – business pioneers

Most basketball fans would say that even though Jordan didn’t hit the same numbers as LeBron, he played other sports and had other distractions. He famously retired at 30, before returning, retiring again and ultimately giving it one last throw of the dice before hanging his kit up for good at the age of 40. 

LeBron has been a far more consistent performer than Jordan – few people can argue that. However, he hasn’t had some of the golden moments Jordan had, except they both starred in Space Jam a few decades apart. In the business world, both LeBron and Jordan have been able to excel, both becoming some of the wealthiest American sportsmen of all time, with the pair now on the billionaires list. 

Kobe, of course, left us far too soon – but he pioneered the way many sporting sponsorship and endorsement deals operate, and had a net worth of around $600 million at the time of his death. The magnitude of his loss stretched far beyond basketball and left a huge hole in the sport. 

Final say

If I were to pick them, in terms of sheer talent, it’d be Jordan in first place, Kobe in second, and then LeBron. Honestly, there really isn’t that much separating them. If you watch the NBA devoutly, you may think there’s an air of truth to Shaq’s comments. Just because LeBron is one of the greatest players of all time doesn’t necessarily mean he strikes fear into the opposition in the same way Kobe or Jordan did. 

Basketball is a mental game too, and Jordan and Kobe knew how to get themselves into that zone where they ultimately became tough and nasty players to deal with. LeBron, it seems, doesn’t have the same element of meanness to his game. While this isn’t necessarily bad, it explains why Shaq felt the need to make this judgment – and while we wouldn’t entirely agree with him, we do see the angle he’s coming at it from.

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