LeBron James is widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time. While everyone has their own opinion on where precisely in the top five he belongs, few question that he has earned the right to the acclaim he gets.
Because of how universally regarded as an all-time great James is, the underlying assumption is always that he’s also the NBA’s most respected player.
As it turns out, that may not be the case.
Brooklyn Nets star Blake Griffin recently painted a slightly different picture.
During a recent appearance on Barstool Sports’ Pardon My Take podcast (via Sports Illustrated), Griffin opened up in very honest terms about who the most respected NBA player around is. Turns out, it’s not actually James. It’s his former teammate – Udonis Haslem.
“When asked if Haslem is universally respected, Griffin responded not only by saying yes, but also added that Haslem has to have the highest approval rating in the league amongst his NBA peers,” the report noted.
Griffin generally keeps it pretty real. This is a guy who was upfront regarding why he refused to dunk with the Detroit Pistons before joining the Nets – even though it didn’t win him any fans. So if he says Haslem, and not James, is the league’s most respected player, he has no reason to lie.
Haslem, 41, recently agreed to return the Miami Heat for his 19th season.
Griffin is not the only person to sing Haslem’s praises. Not long ago Dwyane Wade, who also played alongside James, referred to Haslem as his favorite teammate ever.
“That’s a tough question right there because your favorite teammate is not normally the names that people know so it’s not normally the star players right everybody wants me to say LeBron,” Wade said.
“We came in together but whenever I was in the club, whenever I was out anywhere in Miami, whenever I was on the court, UD have my back. We started building a brotherhood. So obviously we got closer, and we won championships together you know I mean we did all that but like off the court I ain’t never had to worry about nothing in Miami because it’s like ‘yo UD got me.’”
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Interestingly enough, Haslem and James have had some friction in the past. The former called out the latter during the NBA Bubble, when tensions were high about a proposed player-led strike. It is unclear if the beef was ever squashed after that.
Either way, it’s pretty interesting that one of the league’s quietest players commands so much more respect from his peers than arguably the modern-day face of the NBA.
A graduate from the University of Texas, Anthony Amador has been credentialed to cover the Houston Texans, Dallas Cowboys, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks and high school games all over the Lone Star State. Currently, his primary beats are the NBA, MLB, NFL and UFC.