Former NBA guard JJ Redick expanded on his debate with ESPN's Stephen A. Smith about LeBron James, saying he "abso-f--king-lutely" feared the league's longtime gold standard.
Smith suggested Tuesday during a discussion of First Take that James isn't feared in the same way Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant were during their careers. Redick disagreed.
The longtime NBA sharpshooter, who retired in September, added to his thoughts Wednesday on his The Old Man & The Three podcast:
Redick and Smith became engaged in a pretty heated back-and-forth conversation on the topic, which felt more organic than most of the prepackaged shouting matches on the daily debate shows.
The difficult part is trying to quantify who's right given the intangible nature of the topic, and it's far from the first time it's come into the spotlight.
In 2016, former All-Star forward Antonio Davis explained while watching the NBA Finals between James' Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors he came to the conclusion "guys don't fear what this guy will do to them":
"There is just no fear. You figure you can get under his skin. Or you double team and he's going to pass it out. He's not going to make you pay for calling him that name. I think some of it starts with all of the—there is an and-one and he's patting on his bicep looking at his biceps, and then the next play you see him flopping."
Last year, Boston Celtics legend Paul Pierce, who last played in the league four years ago, said he believes the feeling has evolved over time as new players came into the league:
"Players today are scared of LeBron. If they see LeBron standing in front of them, fear's chasing. I know this. You know, my era is out of the league. We weren't afraid of LeBron. These guys today, he strikes fear in these guys."
It's also worth noting the sport has changed a lot since the 1980s and early 1990s when rivalries, both between teams and individual players, were far more intense. There were still some lingering contentiousness during Bryant's years with the Lakers, but you'd be hard-pressed to find that type of rivalry within today's game.
The latest discussion about James comes after his confrontation with the Detroit Pistons' Isaiah Stewart, who tried to go after the four-time MVP a couple of different times after being hit in the face by James' elbow in Sunday's game. Both players were ejected and suspended.
Redick's comments about being legitimately fearful in head-to-head meetings with James are an interesting perspective from someone who played against him countless times throughout his career, but they're unlikely to settle the debate.