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LeBron James

In LeBron James vs. the NBA: The Case for the NBA's Greatest Player, author Brendan Bowers examines his skills and statistics in a variety of categories to compare him to other NBA legends, including Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Jordan. He also revisits some pivotal moments in James' career such as these  from his rookie season involving Ricky Davis:

LeBron James learned many lessons from his teammates throughout his NBA career. This process began during his first season as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. He'd join forces with a young Carlos Boozer as well as longtime teammate Zydrunas Ilguaskas. He'd learn lessons about how to build a roster as well as how to conduct yourself in the NBA. James would also learn lessons that would help form his role as a team leader over much of the next decade from his interactions with NBA veteran scorer Ricky Davis.

LeBron James Vs. The NBA

LeBron crosses paths with Davis at an interesting point in NBA history. Magic Johnson's ball-sharing brand of dominant basketball, which could also be found in many elements of Larry Bird's game, was quickly overshadowed by Michael Jordan's dominance in the years that followed Magic and Bird's reign over the NBA. (Bird and Johnson won six MVPs in seven seasons.) Why this is important is because Jordan was the NBA's most ruthless scorer.

Jordan's scoring was so dominant it overshadowed the well-rounded nature of his game. MJ was a fierce perimeter defender. He could distribute the basketball and was willing to trust his teammates with the game on the line (i.e., Steve Kerr, John Paxson, Craig Hodges, etc.). But what a high school age Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett saw on ESPN was the scoring. To be great at NBA basketball you had to score the ball. That was the message. Ricky Davis was a young baller who hoped to use the game to better his life and he heard this message too.

Davis spent his basketball career trying to get as many buckets as he could. Kobe Bryant had the same approach, he was just a markedly better basketball player in all areas of the game than Ricky D. But we are making a mistake as sports fans or pundits when we discount the fact that players like Davis are just trying to be as aggressive as they possibly can by scoring the ball. He was getting paid millions of dollars, in part, because he was able to score consistently in the NBA even if he was on a bad team. Or especially if he was on a bad team.

The Cavs were a bad team when LeBron James arrived and Ricky Davis was the squad's leading scorer. He thought the same way all the great scorers thought when a young playmaker arrived. Davis thought the Cavaliers had drafted James to help him score the ball with more efficiency and regularity. Bryant would have had the same thought if the Lakers drafted James. It would have made sense for Kobe to think that because he was much better than Davis. But Ricky D was earning crazy bank for what he'd been able to accomplish in his professional career since his time in the Big Ten with Iowa, and why exactly should he change the mental approach that got him there and jeopardize all that?

So that's why Ricky Davis wasn't wrong for being selfish from an individual standpoint. But the Cavaliers obviously did not draft LeBron to help Ricky D get buckets. The result of this miscommunication was a lack of on-court chemistry between the Cavs leading scorer and the franchise player they just drafted. In different ways, this dynamic between Davis and James and the organization would cause significant challenges for the team during their first year together.

Ricky Davis

There is a famous story that is told among Cavaliers staffers that describes the time that Davis left practice and in his Cavs practice gear stood in line at a concession stand inside of what was then Gund Arena to purchase and eat a hot dog while mingling with fans who were also in line while attending the Circus. That type of behavior is not necessarily conducive to developing rookies. James took this experience and has consistently tried to reach out to rookies and make them feel welcome throughout his time as a reigning MVP and champion ever since. James understood from his relationship with Davis how it can feel -- even as a rookie starter -- to be frozen out at times from the veterans for reasons that don't even really concern you as a person specifically. But James also saw firsthand how an NBA veteran should always try to give back even if nobody else is looking.

There is also a famous story in Cavs circles about the time the team was filming a promotional spot with LeBron and Ricky Davis during their first year together. James was on his rookie contract at the time but Davis was making above the League minimum. As the story goes, there was a homeless person who was watching the entire shoot. After it was over, Davis took off his sneakers and autographed them for the man. He then reached into his bag and pulled out a wad of cash that was in a rubber band. He popped the money inside the shoe and gave it to the guy. The response from the homeless man that Ricky Davis handed roughly $5K inside his Nike shoe after filming a team spot was reportedly indescribable. Selfish, silly, class clowning, or otherwise, Ricky D was a good guy just doing a job who helped out those less fortunate whenever he could. LeBron saw all that from Ricky D too.

-- Excerpted by permission from LeBron James vs. the NBA: The Case for the NBA's Greatest Player by Brendan Bowers. Copyright (c) 2017. Published by Triumph Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Available for purchase from the publisher, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes. Follow Brendan Bowers on Twitter @BowersCLE.