Miami Heat team president Pat Riley gave huge props to LeBron James, who he won his fourth championship at the conclusion of the 2020 NBA Finals.
Though James won the title at the expense of Riley’s team, the former Los Angeles Lakers coach recently complimented the four-time Finals MVP.
Pat Riley on LeBron James: "The greatest player in the game today."
— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) October 23, 2020
Riley’s comment appears to be sincere, but he may have backtracked from a more complimentary nickname that he gave James when he was still playing in Miami.
In 2012, James was named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year. In the feature article written by Lee Jenkins, Riley supposedly referred to James as the B.O.A.T., which is an acronym for the best of all time.
“Pat Riley stood in the mouth of the tunnel at Boston’s TD Garden, between the court and the locker room, and waited for the Boat,” Jenkins wrote. “That’s what he calls LeBron James—’You know,’ Riley explains, ‘best of all time’—an acronym he conjured to remind the planet’s preeminent basketball player of frontiers still to be conquered. ‘Hey, Boat,’ Riley will say. ‘How is the Boat doing today?’ James will reflexively laugh and shake his head because he is not the Boat, at least not yet.”
The nickname for James didn’t stick as well as his other monikers such as “King James” have, but it was probably a catchy one within the Heat organization back then. James played for the Heat for four years after joining the squad in the summer of 2010.
During that time, Miami went to the NBA Finals four times and won the title twice with James capturing Finals MVP honors both times.
The 16-time All-Star eventually returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the summer of 2014 and brought a championship to that franchise in 2016.
He went to L.A. in the 2018 offseason. Two seasons later, James handed the Lakers their 17th title, matching the Boston Celtics for most ever in league history.
Being called the “greatest player in the game today” is one of the best compliments a player can ever receive. Though they are no longer on the same side, Riley clearly still believes that James is a great player who deserves all the accolades that he receives.