Miami Heat legend says LeBron James is still the best player in the NBA ‘hands down’'
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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Heat legend Udonis Haslem believes that Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James is still the best player in the NBA.

James, 39, is in his 21st season in the league, but he’s still putting up impressive numbers for the Lakers, who are in the hunt for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

“Everybody know who the best player in the world is,” Haslem said regarding what the perception of James was like during the superstar’s time with the Heat. “And to me, he still is. I understand it’s a lot of young (talent).”

This season, James is averaging 25.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 8.1 assists per game while shooting 53.2 percent from the field and 40.6 percent from beyond the arc. Those numbers are eerily similar to the last time the four-time champion won a league MVP award.

That MVP award came when James was a member of the Heat during the 2012-13 campaign. That season, James averaged 26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game while shooting 56.5 percent from the field and 40.6 percent from 3-point range. He earned his fourth league MVP that season, but he shockingly hasn’t won one since.

Those numbers just show how consistent James has been despite playing into his late 30s. The fact that he’s still able to put up similar numbers to when he was in his late 20s shows just how dominant he’s been over the years.

“The best player in the world then, and still is today, is LeBron James, brother, hands down,” Haslem said.

This season, James became the first player in NBA history to reach 40,000 career points, and he broke Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record during the 2022-23 season.

A four-time NBA Finals MVP, James has played in 10 NBA Finals in his career, winning titles with three different franchises (Miami, Los Angeles and the Cleveland Cavaliers). He also had an eight-season stretch where he made the NBA Finals in every campaign.

If James – who led the Lakers to the Western Conference Finals last season – can capture another title, it’s going to be hard to dispute his standing among players in the NBA, even at his current age.

The Lakers currently hold the No. 9 seed in the Western Conference, but they’re hoping to close out the season strong to avoid the play-in tournament. Los Angeles would need to reach the No. 6 spot in the West to make that happen.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.