LeBron James paid tribute to San Antonio Spurs icon Tim Duncan Thursday night, calling him the “greatest (power forward) to ever play this game” in an Instagram post.
The Spurs remained undefeated at home on Thursdsay night, edging the Cavaliers, 99-95.
Despite the loss, LeBron James delivered a paragraph of praise for Tim Duncan, who made his NBA debut while James was in middle school.
“Don’t know how many times we got left to go against one another but I’ve never have (sic) and I never will take them for granted,” James wrote. “The consistency you’ve shown over the years goes unmatched and as a competitor it’s always a treat to be competing on the same floor as you.”
Once you’ve earned James’ respect, his vocal, public praise is unending. For instance, ahead of Tuesday’s win over the Dallas Mavericks, James said Dirk Nowitzki was one of his favorite players “to ever play the game.”
The Spurs’ current best player, Kawhi Leonard, hasn’t quite reached that status. Leonard, who scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in his matchup with James (James posted 22 points, seven rebounds, and five assists), is the reigning defensive player of the year, is averaging a career-best 20.2 points in his fifth pro season.
A San Antonio-based reporter tried to get James to speak to Leonard’s growth as a player, and James was having none of it.
“Is that like a trick question,” he said. “I think, if you look at anyone in our league that gets more and more of an opportunity, their game gets better. That’s no different from Kawhi, no different from myself, no different from Steph, no different from Kyrie, it’s no different from Kevin Love and Tim Duncan and Tony. If I asked you if do you see a difference in Tony from his first year to now, it’s the same answer. Guys get an opportunity and guys put in the work and that’s the result of it.”
This letter makes one wonder if James confused Duncan with Kobe Bryant, in terms of which NBA legend is retiring this year. In fact, James still has a matchup with Duncan this season in Cleveland.
Maybe the Kobe news this season is making LeBron feel like he can’t take any of his elders for granted. No one will complain if the King unleashes more of these sentimental statements for Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki and others.