LeBron James doesn’t mince words on the topic.
If you ask him to name the greatest coach in NBA history, he’ll deliver you a straight answer—Gregg Popovich.
“I think he’s the greatest coach of all time,” James told ESPN. “You have to be sharp, mentally and physically, when you go against his ball club. If you were an NFL player, it’s probably the same as going against a [Bill] Belichick team.”
As the coach of the San Antonio Spurs since 1996, Popovich is a five-time NBA Champion. LeBron currently holds a record of 1-2 against Popovich’s Spurs in the NBA Finals.
James is particularly impressed with Popovich’s ability to keep the Spurs competitive as the league has evolved.
“To be able to do what he’s done where the game of basketball has changed so much and he’s been able to have a growth mindset and change with the game [is impressive],” James said. “We went from a league where it was inside out, where every time you came down it was throw it to the big, and then it goes to every time down pick-and-roll, and then it goes to every time down shoot a 3 . . . Pop has been able to adjust every single time and still, for some odd reason, keep those guys under the radar. I don’t understand it.”
As it turns out, the admiration is mutual. During the 2013 NBA Finals, Popovich lauded LeBron in a media session:
He knows more than all of you put together. He understands the game. If he makes a pass and you all think he should have shot it, or he shoots it and you think he should have made a pass, your opinions mean nothing to him, as they should not mean anything to him. He’s a great player.
LeBron is also one of the few people on the planet who can get Popovich to smile:
LeBron and Pop will do battle once again on Saturday night as the San Antonio Spurs visit Quicken Loans Arena to face the Cleveland Cavaliers.
RELATED: LeBron Reportedly Spends $1.5 Million a Year To Keep His Body Healthy