Tuesday, December 9th, 2008 at 10:30 am  |  77 responses

In Appreciation of LeBron’s Defense

by Marcel Mutoni

Not too long ago, the words “defense” and “LeBron James” didn’t look quite right in the same sentence. But today, friends, they go together like ham and cheese … or something.

As you’ve likely noticed, James has become an absolute terror on the defensive end of the ball (spiking opponents’ shots into the stands with alarming regularity), and in the process giving his critics – that would be yours truly, thanks for asking – less and less to nitpick at with each passing game.

The Plain Dealer asked LeBron about his newfound focus on defense, and he revealed at least one post-season honor he’d love to get his hands on:

“I hope [to make the All-Defense team]. It’s something our team is geared to,” James said. “I take pride it in. I need to work on the perimeter so I can help the rest of our guys out. Hopefully Z [Ilgauskas], Ben [Wallace] and Delonte [West] can get some votes, too.”

“Not only has he done a nice job guarding the guys, but there are a lot of things that the fans can’t see,” said coach Mike Brown. “His communication is just off the charts for us. He’s like the quarterback of our defense. He sits back there and tells guys what to do and what’s going on.”

The nice thing about LeBron’s defense this season isn’t just the proliferation of highlight reel plays, but that he’s legitimately shutting guys down.

Now, if he could just stop chewing his nails, this guy could really become something.

  • Add a Comment
  • Share
  • RSS

  • Rich

    Or better yet, lose the headband. If he does that, he’ll be scary on the court.

  • alapatrick


  • alapatrick

    oh well…yeah hes a beast generally

  • Todd Spehr

    Like all the best, LBJ is adding a little, or something new, to his game every year… yikes

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    His blocks have improved tremendously this year, I just hope he adds some lateral quickness on defense in the perimeter, that part of his game is still behind. Bron Bron is really great.

  • http://www.myfreesport.com LexaB

    If LBJ reaches “All-Defensive Team” status, this could become really ugly… I mean who’ll be able to stop him???? The fact that he doesn’t give his best on the offensive end yet but his Cavs are really near the top of the East must already scare everyone in the L!!! And now the defense??? Can u guys remember me how old he is??? Bron is da man, for real, no one can argue about that

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones


  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    Ryan Jones quoted for truth.

  • Bulls Fan

    Wasn’t this the same step Jordan took and added to his game, right before he started winning rings? He’d won ROY, scoring titles, Slam Dunk titles already and needed another challenge. So Mike decided that he was going to focus on locking up opponents. First he made All Defensive Team, then he added DPOY. Finally, he became a champ and added MVPs to his trophy collection…Is this a preview of things to come in LeBron’s career arc?

  • ti-sizz

    on defense, yeah.. definitely needs more lateral quickness.. how can you be all-defensive team if you can’t stay in front of your opponent.. he does get some nice blocks now and then, i guess d-wade must have taught him how at the olympics. d-wade=best little man shot blocker

  • neaorin

    He still has serious trouble staying in front of quick guys but the Cavs team defense has been doing a good job of hiding that. But if his expressed goal (of making all-D) is sincere, I applaud him for that. An all-D LeBron would help this team a ton more than him going for the MVP (*cough* like Bosh *cough*).

  • http://www.hoopmixtape.com Simon S.Y Lawy

    Overrated, he ain’t gonna win the slamdunk champ’ if he keep doing the tomahawk …

  • ti-sizz

    .. they juss might give him it, juss cuz everyone loooves lebron

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    Bulls fan, bit of a difference here: LeBron feels he is above the dunk contest, wont even enter. Jordan always had better FT shooting scoring and defensive ability early in the career. LeBron has more blocking but Jordan has great on ball defense. It was Jordan elevating his help defense and backside help, cementing him as a great TEAM and SOLO defender that made him unstoppable. LeBron is not even a capable on the ball perimeter defender for a player his caliber, he can’t average 37 points on 48% shooting, 85% FT shooting, 5 rebounds, almost 5 assists, 2.88 steals and 1.57 blocks. That was Jordans 3rd year in the league. We are at what year in LBJ’s career? I think LeBron is a GREAT Player. but can we never compare the MJ legacy with LBJ?

  • Todd Spehr

    Bulls fan – MJ averaged 3 stls and 1.5 blks in his second “full” season (’87) and was named DPOY one year later. Safe to say the dude amped it up on D from the beginning

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    I’m guessing Todd Spehr agrees with me then? haha

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    The best King James can ever be is an average NBA player.
    I read that somewhere.

  • Young Chris MP3

    I don’t believe you, you need more people.

  • underdog

    Sorry ’bout that Ryan, but you know, Bassy is about to rule the world.

  • kev

    haters!!!!! hahaha

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    He’s also taken a move from-gasp-Kobe’s book by blocking shots with his left hand to avoid body contact. Respek.

  • riggs

    rated over.

  • Cizzo

    Either you put effort towards playing D or you wont, in the NBA after doing certain things for so long like scoring and passing eventually becomes routine. So if you start to play defense fundamentally you can come into the habit of it like what Lebron has molded himself into. If yiu can’t play D normally that means you dpn’t want to D up,.

  • chris

    Justin do you watch cavs games? Lebron is a more than capable on the ball defender he has been locking dudes down all year.So much that They have started taking shots at him when he is on offense out of frustration.

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    He is a capable on ball for an average NBA player…but for a player considered top 3 in the league? Unacceptable. He hasn’t LOCKED DOWN all year don’t get it twisted Chris. I’m not hating, I’m just not nutriding

  • Anton

    under rated

  • http://lastknickstanding.blogspot.com Bryan

    Actually jordan has the record for most blocks by a guard so I don’t know if bron blocks more.

  • Todd Spehr

    Sorry Justin – didn’t see your comments! Yes, I agree with you!

  • Chris Bosh’s Girlfriend!!1!

    LeBron’s okay, but Chris led that team USA team to gold single-handed. Tonight the real MVP is in Cleaveland or whatever it’s spelt. Bosh MVP 2009, betches

  • Reflex

    This article really should have been Dwayne Wade…

  • Reflex

    ^*about* Dwayne Wade

  • http://www.bbl.org.uk Josh D

    And this is news becuase?

  • http://www.alllooksame.com Tarzan Cooper

    lebron just makes highlight blocks, and swats them out of bounds and gives it right back to the other team. he hasnt locked anyone down since high school. he is an average onball defender at best

  • http://deleted Fresh

    he is playing better defense then chris paul did last yr so he would make it. chris paul is just good @ gambling for steals. that means allen iverson should make it on the all defensive team too…but lebron is plaing nice on the ball and off the ball defense

  • Tommy Patron

    We’ll see.

  • thesubwayconnection

    Helpside, yes. On ball, maybe.

  • ciolkstar

    He completely shut Danny Granger down a few games back, he’s an absolute terror off the ball and chasing down would be fast break layups. Anyone still wanna debate Kobe vs Bron?

  • dave42

    man… actually watch the games guys. he has really been locking people down defensively lately.. if you actually watched more than the highlight reels before you made your stereotyped “lebron doesn’t play defense” statements that were true a few years ago, you might learn something.

  • ciolkstar

    Dave42 is right a bunch of people on here are saying “crap like Bron hasn’t locked anyone down since highschool” Granger only got up 7 shots and was hounded by Bron all game. Now that Lebreezy has some help on offense he might be able to dediacte more effort to playing great on ball defense. I think he performs better when there’s an individual challenge to stop a high level player than when the cavs are playing against a weak team. He’s unquestionaly the best player in the league (though Wade is nipping at his heels) right now, perceived defensive flaws and all.

  • Shelton

    The cavaliers have not played any top tier teams so who has he shut down? Jason Richardson? Wilson Chandler? Luol Deng? I wish the jock riding would end…

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Somebody help me out on this: Is my man underdog comparing an obviously hyperbolic cover line (unless you thought we were actually nominating Sebastian Telfair for President of Earth…) to a specific, literal prediction of LeBron James’ NBA potential? Anyway, I’m the first to admit to a blown cover line, but since the line in question referred to Bassy AND LeBron, we were 50 percent right — which is 50 percent more right than Charley Rosen.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Also: What Shelton said! Enough with the jock riding already! Jeez you guys!

  • http://where-basketball-b-longs.blogspot.com/ B. Long

    LeBron is the MVP so far…yeah, I said it. But if the Lakers win 70 games this year…

  • The Black Clark Kent

    Lebron’s defense has improved every year. He moves his feet and he gets after it. Obviously his blocks garner the most attention, but he does a good job defensively in both team and man-to-man defense.

  • http://twentythreenine.blogspot.com Russ Bengtson

    Who the hell is LeBron James?

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    Some dude who lost in h-o-r-s-e to a factory worker. :shock:

  • witness

    i love this game.

  • Big L

    He also shut down carmelo when they first got chauncey Billups in the trade a while back

  • AD25

    He also hangs out with some guy by the name of Jay-Z.

  • http://twentythreenine.blogspot.com Russ Bengtson

    What kind of name is “Jay-Z”? Is that Hungarian?

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    Never heard of him.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com/ Moose

    I don’t see LeBron making All-Defensive First Team. His blocks are great, of course. But I don’t see him beating out Garnett or Duncan.

  • http://myspace.com/bodiebarnett jbn74sb

    I’m not sure that blocking shots with your left hand is out of the Kobe playbook. When guarding a right-handed player, I learned that in 4th grade.

  • http://where-basketball-b-longs.blogspot.com/ B. Long

    ^I was thinking the same damn thing.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    LeBron is not an First-Team All-Denfensive team player, but he’ll get there if he (allegedly) keeps ‘stealing’ from Kobe’s book.

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    I mispoke. Kobe certainly didn’t invent it, but I don’t see very many players doing it either.

  • Boing Dynasty

    what about Lamar Odom, Chris Bosh, AK47…oh…

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    What about Lamar Odom? Sheesh.

  • The Ghost of Wilt Chamberlain

    I know swatting the ball in to the 5th row looks great and has a certain intimidation factor, but if Lebron just caught the ball, turned the other way and started a break, that would be even better. Just ask Bill Russell.

  • Tommy Patron

    Danny Granger?

  • http://thesportsdiaryonline.blogspot.com Roy

    His defense has improved but I doubt he’ll top KG or Duncan… :D

  • http://twentythreenine.blogspot.com Russ Bengtson

    MJ blocked 125 and 131 shots in consecutive seasons (while piling up 236 and 259 steals). Call me when LeBron does that.

  • http://www.bbaxn.com Darksaber

    @Russ: THANK YOU. Regarding Bron on D: Spectacular Shotblocker he is, above average defensive player? not so much (yet): someone hire the worm to teach him the dirty tricks.

  • Anton

    oh man I miss the Worm

  • http://www.bbaxn.com Darksaber

    i had a oh sh*t revelation early this week regarding Lebooom! Remember how huge Ben Wallace looked on the pistons & magic, sure he’s not the tallest PF, but he was mad ripped etc. well Lebron not only appears to be slightly taller, he also seems….wider. Imagine that rumbling towards you at PG-Speed about to take off, wow. i gots to see this guy in person asap.

  • knowsense.

    bron keeps jockin sh*t.
    first KG’s powder.
    now Kob’s block.
    watch your back AI,
    the braids might be next.

  • Do Work

    i feel one huge variable that is overlooked when comparing jordan and lebron is the talent in the l right now on every team is a lot better than it was when jordan was ruling. the players are so much more athletic and stronger. dont get me wrong, mj is the greatest ever, but i feel that if he was in his prime right now, he would be putting up the same numbers that kobe and lebron are putting up right now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=627550406 KA

    lebron got the taste from the ‘lympics from swatting the s**t back in china’s face. he’s like muffugga ima block this s**t rargh, and then the chinese are like aaiiiieee gojira…oh wait, thats japanese amirite?

  • http://where-basketball-b-longs.blogspot.com/ B. Long

    Do Work is smart.

  • http://fjsdklf.com Jukai

    You know, I’d go into the fact that Lebron’s defense over the last two years has skyrocketed, and that he’s actually a damn good defender and probably has a good shot of making all-defense second team (Bruce Bowen gets all-defense every year because no one can think of any other small forward in the league) but I’m going to pull a Ryan and just sit back and act smug and say to myself, “whatever. I’m smarter then everyone else here. Lemme just leave a snarky comment.”

  • http://fjsdklf.com Jukai

    I’d like to add to Do Work’s comment and say that another big difference between Lebron and MJ is that their mindset is different. Lebron is a point forward. Lebron doesn’t LOOK to score, he has looked to get his team involved from day one. I without a doubt think that Lebron could average 37 points in a season. That’s just not in Lebron’s game. Jordan was different. Jordan was a scorer, he looked to score, pure and simple. He was just such an awesome passer that he’d occassionally see someone open when he was being double/triple teamed and get the dime… but I don’t think Jordan ever wanted to act as the guy who got everyone involved via passing around the ball. He did that verbally.
    Correct me if I’m wrong.

  • http://fjsdklf.com Jukai

    Also, Michael Jordan could just be the best player ever. The whole averaging twenty points when you’re 40 thing, that’s pretty beastly.

  • horsey

    wish i had a quarterback on my defense…i understand the expression, but i don’t understand why there isn’t a better one.

  • tealish

    Bron’s stepped up his D for sure, but not near All-Defensive team levels. Help-defense, he’s almost there. Shutting down his own man, not so much.

  • http://www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    *snort*, Juks said “snarky”. Gotta love that.

  • Mike

    Lebron is overrated. He is a solid Defensive player now, nothing more. The league trying to give him first team D and even some idiots talking about Defensive player of the year is just proof that the NBA and sports media are overhyping Lebron for the sake of money.

  • Mike


    Dwyane Wade is averaging more blocks than Lebron this year. FACT: Dwyane Wade is BETTER than Lebron James.