On cusp of 30K, Donovan praises LBJ’s passing fancy

Billy Donovan remains awed by LeBron James' ability -- and willingness -- to pass the basketball.

Ashley Bastock

Ashley is a former basketball player. She also covers the Cleveland Cavaliers, Indians and high school sports for NEO Sports Insiders, and women's basketball for SB Nation's Swish Appeal. Ashley is a 2015 graduate of John Carroll University and previously worked in political journalism. You can follow her on Twitter @AshleyBastock42

CLEVELAND — Heading into Saturday afternoon’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, LeBron James is just 25 points away from becoming the seventh player in NBA history to score 30,000 points.

At 33 years, 21 days old, James will also become the youngest player to accomplish the feat, surpassing Kobe Bryant, who was 34 years, 109 days old when he did it. For what it’s worth, James is averaging 28.9 points per game against the Thunder for his career.

While James obviously has an innate ability to score the basketball, he’s said numerous times that he considers himself a “pass-first” guy. It’s a sentiment on which Thunder coach Billy Donovan agrees.

“Obviously, the career he’s had to get to this milestone is a really incredible achievement and accomplishment,” Donovan said. “But I’ve always felt like the best part of his game is the way he passes the ball. I think he’s got a great feel for the game, he’s always been that way. When you watch him when he was younger, I always admired he always made the right play, whoever he was playing with. It didn’t make a difference who the player was, if a guy was open he got him the ball.

“He’s as good as there is at manipulating defenses, seeing where rotations are coming from and making those kind of passes. But certainly for what he’s done from his own personal individual statistics to winning he’s been one of the greatest of all-time.”

Donovan has known James since he was in high school, as he was at the helm of the Florida Gators program from 1996-2015 before accepting the Oklahoma City job. As someone who has plenty of experience in recruiting high-level high school talent, Donovan said that what set James apart from most high school phenoms was his ability to continuously raise the level of his game, despite national attention and scrutiny.

“I saw him as a sophomore and I couldn’t believe how talented and how good he was,” Donovan said. “But you know what? I think the thing that is remarkable about him, in my opinion, is you see him at that age, you see a lot of times young kids that are sophomores with his ability — not all of his ability — but you see talented players and they never get better, and a lot of times it’s difficult to get better because there’s such a microscope.

“The thing that’s amazing to me is obviously, he’s had a lot of attention on him from a very, very young age and he always got better. And I think that that was a great tribute to him and who he is as a player.”

About the Author

Ashley Bastock
Ashley is a former basketball player. She also covers the Cleveland Cavaliers, Indians and high school sports for NEO Sports Insiders, and women's basketball for SB Nation's Swish Appeal. Ashley is a 2015 graduate of John Carroll University and previously worked in political journalism. You can follow her on Twitter @AshleyBastock42

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