During a previous interview with ESPN's Chris Broussard, LeBron admitted that Iverson, along with Michael Jordan, was one of his favorite players to watch on tape. Now he's taken his infatuation one step further, calling AI "pound for pound, the greatest player ever," per The New York Times' Harvey Araton.
For clarity's sake:
Understand that LeBron isn't calling Iverson the greatest player ever. Michael Jordan can rest easy knowing The King hasn't attempted to defile his legacy.
When he says "pound for pound," LeBron is talking about actual weight, about Iverson's size.
Standing at 6'0" and tipping the scale at around 165 pounds, Iverson didn't tower over or outmuscle anyone. He scored out of sheer will. That's what LeBron told Broussard, anyway:
But I'll watch tapes of AI, too. I don't take anything from AI. Well, I do -- his will. They say he was 6 feet, but AI was like 5-10½. Do we even want to say 160? 170 [pounds]? Do we even want to give him that much weight? And he played like a 6-8 2-guard. He was one of the greatest finishers we've ever seen.
Plenty of players 6'0" and under have played at the NBA level—248 to be exact, according to Basketball Reference. Of those 248, only 41 have played in at least 500 career games. Iverson nearly doubled that, appearing in 914 career regular-season contests.
Of all players in NBA history who were 6'0" or shorter, Iverson is the only one to average 20-plus points per game for his career. His 26.7 rank first, and it's not even close. Chris Paul comes in a distant second with 18.6.
How about that? And how about each and every one of those 24,368 points he scored? Iverson is the shortest player in NBA history to notch 20,000 points for his career. A pair of 6'2" players—Jerry West and Hal Greer—are the closest to his size.
If you want to get uber technical and pit him against Jordan, you can. His Airness checked in at 216 pounds and finished his career with 32,292 points, or 149.5 points per pound. Iverson's 24,368 points come out to 147.7 per pound.
Really, that means nothing. It doesn't detract from what Jordan did; it only accentuates the career arc of Iverson, who was often dismissed because of his size and play style.
"You could never question his heart," LeBron told Broussard of Iverson. "Ever. He gave it his all."
LeBron provided more context, via Tom Haberstroh of ESPN:
(Iverson) reminds me of Floyd Mayweather," James said, comparing Iverson to the undefeated boxer who has 18 titles to his name and stands just 5-8. "You could never question (Iverson's) heart, his will to want to win. A true warrior.
I hate the fact that his career ended the way it did," James said Monday. "But he had an unbelievable career.
Dwyane Wade also chimed in with an appreciation for Iverson, via Haberstroh:
One of my favorite players obviously of all time. Michael Jordan, Kobe, T-Mac and AI. Those were the ones that I looked up to coming up. I take pride in wearing No. 3 because AI wore No. 3.
Pound for pound, inch for inch, Iverson was the greatest player to ever play the game, just like LeBron said.