LeBron James Voted Best Player over Nikola Jokić, Giannis by Retired NBA Players

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerTwitter LogoFeatured Columnist IVFebruary 28, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - FEBRUARY 19: Nikola Jokic #15 and LeBron James #6 of Team LeBron talk during the NBA All-Star Game as part of 2023 NBA All Star Weekend on Sunday, February 19, 2023 at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

LeBron James remains the King in the eyes of former NBA players.

In a joint survey conducted by the National Basketball Retired Players Association and The Athletic’s David Aldridge and Josh Robbins, the Los Angeles Lakers star was voted the best player in the NBA.

James garnered 28.1 percent of the vote and was followed by the Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokić (21.2 percent) and the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo (21.0 percent).

“The body of work and what he is currently doing at his age makes him the best of his time,” said Jumaine Jones, who had the misfortune of playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the two years before they selected James in the 2003 draft.

When Robbins and colleague Sam Amick conducted this exercise last season, Kevin Durant was the runaway winner and collected nearly half (44.2 percent) of the votes. James was second at 31.6 and Antetokounmpo was a distant third at 13.6 percent.

Durant might have lost votes because he missed 27 games in 2021-22 and has been limited to 39 games this season because of an MCL sprain. His trade to the Phoenix Suns and the implosion of the Brooklyn Nets’ superteam may have done him no favors in the eyes of the voting panel.

James, 38, has been dogged by injuries to a degree himself, having appeared in 47 of Los Angeles’ 61 games. He could reportedly miss multiple weeks as well because of a recent foot injury.

But there’s no question the 19-time All-Star continues to play at a high level. He’s averaging 29.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 6.9 assists while shooting 50.1 percent from the floor.

Not to mention, James passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer this month.

Should The Athletic canvass retired NBA players again next season, there could be another player who overtakes LeBron as the best.

Jokić could be on his way to a third straight MVP award, which would put him in rarefied air. Perhaps just as important, the Nuggets have the best record (43-19) in the Western Conference.

Should Denver go on an NBA Finals run with Jokić leading the way, he might have an indisputable case to be the premier star in the Association.

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