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Saturday, May 23, 2015

LeBron James is Not a Pass First Player but He is a Great Passer

LeBron James is at his best when he is in attack mode. He is a tremendous scorer and it is his great scoring ability that enables his passing skills to fully flourish. I don't understand why so many people describe James as a pass first player when he is actually one of the most dominant scorers in pro basketball history. He won his two championships because he accepted the burden of being a big-time scorer against elite teams during the postseason, after failing to win in his previous Finals trips precisely because he was too passive.

My newest article for The Roar explains why it is important for a great player to attack the defense and describes the difference between just passing the ball and actually threatening the defense with a pass:

LeBron James is Not a Pass First Player but He is a Great Passer

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posted by David Friedman @ 4:29 PM



At Tuesday, May 26, 2015 4:26:00 AM, Anonymous Don said...

Hey Dave,

Can you compare Lebron James's game to Oscar Robertson's? I haven't really watched a significant number of Big O's game and I don't think the mainstream media compare them that much. All I know is that during their time, they are both really strong and athletic compared to their peers and they have used these to their advantage.

At Tuesday, May 26, 2015 8:16:00 PM, Blogger Awet M said...

I haven't seen much footage of the Big O myself but from what I've researched & the little I've seen tells me that LBJ is a bigger version, but not as fundamentally sound, and a much better teammate than Oscar.

At Wednesday, May 27, 2015 3:05:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Robertson played forward in college and he was as big as some of the top NBA forwards of his era, including Elgin Baylor. Robertson shifted to the backcourt in the NBA. He was a very smart and efficient player. It has been said that if he had a 15 foot shot, he wanted a 12 foot shot and if he had a 12 foot shot, he wanted a 10 foot shot and so on, until he got a layup. He used his size, strength, quickness and footwork to outmaneuver defenders. He was a top notch scorer, rebounder and passer and a solid defensive player as well. He was a perfectionist who demanded a lot from his teammates, but that is generally true of great players.

I would say that LeBron is bigger and more athletic than Robertson but not quite as fundamentally sound. LeBron will settle for bad shots at times and LeBron will sometimes not be as aggressive as he should.

Robertson always played the right way. He spent most of his prime on teams that just were not good enough to beat Russell's Celtics but in his twilight years he was a major contributor to Milwaukee's 1971 championship team. A credible case could be made that Robertson is the most complete all-around player in basketball history.

At Thursday, May 28, 2015 5:10:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

I've actually watched a decent chunk of Oscar (for a player from that era), maybe 40-50 games or so. I don't agree that he never settled for bad shots; he particularly had a bad habit of taking long jumpers in semi-transition, and wasn't a particularly good jump shooter from beyond 15 feet or so, but he'd often shoot from 18+ in these situations. In the half-court, he was much sounder, always trying to bend the defense and find an advantage.

I don't disagree with the Lebron criticisms, but I think their shot selection and aggressiveness are/were comparable. The biggest difference, in my opinion, was that Oscar was a good defensive player who put in a more consistent effort, while Lebron can be a transcendent defensive player when he wants to be, but takes entire plays- or even quarters- off. His pouting in transition at the end of game 4 against Atlanta is truly indefensible.

At Saturday, May 30, 2015 8:17:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I think that the comment about Robertson never settling for bad shots came from Red Holzman, though it might have been from Hubie Brown (who was an assistant coach for Milwaukee when Robertson played there). I unfortunately do not have the time to track it down in my archives right now.

In any case, most of the players/coaches from that era who I have spoken with or whose quotes I have read mentioned that Robertson always looked for a better shot and did not settle. I wonder if the examples you saw are isolated instances.

At Sunday, May 31, 2015 1:09:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Could be; 40 games isn't that many in the greater scheme. Also possibly contributing: our perception of what constitutes a "great shot" has changed a lot in the last 10-15 year; perhaps those 18 footers were considered good shots in the 60s because they were wide open, but look questionable today with the additional 50 years of context/numbers/analytics we've got.


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