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LeBron James jealous of Kevin Durant’s shot attempts

Jan 15, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT

Oklahoma City Thunder v Miami Heat Getty Images

LeBron James has not won a scoring title since 2008, when, not coincidentally, he last led the NBA in shots per game.

Attempting the most shots is not a sure-fire way to lead the league in scoring average – Kevin Durant leads the NBA in points per game this season, though Carmelo Anthony and LaMarcus Aldridge have taken more shots per game – but it helps. And Durant still shoots at a high volume – so high in fact, he actually wants fewer attempts.

LeBron on the other hand…


“I get jealous sometimes when I look over at KD and he’s like 16-for-32 (from the field) and then 14-for-34. … Man,” James told’s Tom Haberstroh.

James could stand to take more shots but explained, “I’m not much of a forced-shot guy.

“But there are games where I have it going, and then at the end of the game, I’m like, damn, I shot just 12-for-16? Why don’t I get up at least six or seven more? I definitely notice it.”

There’s no secret why Durant shoots more than LeBron. With Russell Westbrook out injured, the Thunder need Durant to carry them offensively. LeBron has a couple star teammates, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who need need shots. Plus, LeBron is a better distributor than Durant, making passing up a shot the correct call more often for LeBron than it is for Durant.

Could LeBron shoot more and still help his team, though? Almost definitely. A 59/40/75 shooter, LeBron is incredibly efficient. Even if he forced more shots and lowered his efficiency, it would still likely sit well above his teammates’. The equilibrium point probably requires more LeBron shots.

But that’s not his game and hasn’t been since he joined Wade and Bosh in Miami. In his four years with the Heat, LeBron’s per game averages have been:

  • 26.7 points on 18.8 shots
  • 27.1 points on 18.9 shots
  • 26.8 points on 17.8 shots
  • 26.0 points on 16.1 shots

In NBA history, there have been 240 seasons of players as scoring as many points per game as LeBron has each of his four years in Miami. In shots per game among that group, LeBron’s seasons rank as the second- , ninth- , 26th- and 28th-fewest (marked in red).


Only Adrian Dantley (sixth-, 15th-, 17th- and 22nd-fewest) rivals LeBron’s sustained output of high-volume, low-shot scoring. Karl Malone (7th-, 14th-, 24th- and 30th-fewest) and Shaquille O’Neal (10th-, 12th-, 18th- and 33rd-fewest) fall just short of the discussion.

The season with the fewest shots per game on that list belongs to Charles Barkley, who scored 28.3 points on 16.0 shots per game in 1987-88.

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This is the path LeBron chose when signing with the Heat, and I think he knows that.

I don’t take his comments as complaining, as much as they’re acknowledging a downside to his decision.

The upside definitely trumps it.

By sacrificing his individual game to play with other stars, LeBron has two titles already. He has a good chance at a third this season, and his championship window won’t close after that.

I also believe history will judge his historically efficient seasons even more kindly than they’re being judged right now.

In hindsight, we probably overrated players like Allen Iverson during their high-volume, low efficiency seasons. The tide has turned a great deal already, but I think it has further to go. Efficiency – in this regard, not wasting possessions with missed shots – is becoming increasingly valued at the expense of volume stats like points per game.

Everyone knows LeBron is the best player in the NBA right now. But when people look back on his career, I think it will be viewed even more favorably – precisely because he doesn’t regularly shoot 16-for-32 or 14-for-34 like he wishes he did.

  1. asimonetti88 - Jan 15, 2014 at 10:52 AM

    Durant is pretty efficient as well. He averaged 28 PPG on 50-40-90 last year and has a good chance at it again this year, with his shooting %s at 49-39-88, despite needing to shoot almost 2 shots more per game with Westbrook out.

  2. casualcommenter - Jan 15, 2014 at 11:10 AM

    Goes both ways, though. LeBron’s a better passer than Durant, so he loses shot attempts because he’s asked to pass more.

    That being said, LeBron’s efficiency is helped by him passing out of double teams so effectively because that allows LeBron to mostly take high-quality shot attempts.

    Nobody doubts LeBron could win the scoring title if he decided to stop caring so much about efficiency and keeping his teammates involved. However, it’s fair to wonder how much his efficiency would drop because if you watch Heat games, you see him generally taking wide open 3’s or high percentage shots at the rim. The Heat have committed to surrounding him with floor spacers, and one of the reasons why he finishes games with so few shot attempts is that he reacts to double teams by firing passes to wide open teammates who usually make their shots. That leads to a very efficient offense overall (I think the Heat lead the NBA in field goal percentage), but LeBron consistently finishing with 24+ shot attempts could lead to a dramatic loss in efficiency for both him and the Heat as a whole.

  3. philtration - Jan 15, 2014 at 11:11 AM

    I am sure that Durant would trade a scoring title for an NBA title any day.
    Michael Jordan could have scored 35 ppg every year but he wanted rings instead.

    This is just more of LeBron needing constant attention.

  4. aboogy123456 - Jan 15, 2014 at 12:23 PM

    jeez the superstars in today’s nba are really annoying, wiggins needs to hurry up and get on the scene.

  5. ravenswhat - Jan 15, 2014 at 12:34 PM

    Lebron is just so much more efficient than the other “elite” guys. That’s why he always leads the league in PER. He could score 36 per night if he was a single minded gunner but who wins like that outside of MJ?

    • asimonetti88 - Jan 15, 2014 at 1:30 PM

      Did you really just call MJ a single minded gunner?

      • asimonetti88 - Jan 15, 2014 at 3:43 PM

        Michael Jordan averaged 5.3 APG, 6.1 RPG, 2.3 SPG and 0.8 BPG for his whole career. In 1988 he averaged 5.9 APG, 5.5 RPG, 3.2 SPG and 1.6 BPG to go along with 35 PPG. In 1989 he followed that up with 8 APG, 8 RPG, 2.9 SPG and 0.8 BPG along with 32.5 PPG. “Single minded gunner”

      • dinofrank60 - Jan 15, 2014 at 10:33 PM

        Yep, but I’m sure Bulls fans overlook this flaw. I think, after all these years, Mike is forgiven for his hogging tendencies, people might have been slightly satisfied with the results…

    • sportsfan18 - Jan 15, 2014 at 2:39 PM

      Several points here.

      First, I like PER and LBJ is leading the league for the 7th consecutive season this year. He’s about to overtake MJ for the highest career PER.

      But, PER includes many things like turnovers, assists, rebounds and even fouls plus other things.

      With respect to ONLY shooting though (2 pt shots, 3 pt shots and free throws), Durant is more efficient as a shooter than LBJ.

      True shooting percentage takes into account 2 and 3 pt FG’s and free throws. Durant’s career true shooting percentage is .596% and that is very high. LBJ’s isn’t bad at all, very good actually at .579%

      Also, for their careers, LBJ averages 20.0 shots per game to Durant’s 18.9 shots per game.

      Yes, LBJ has been taking less shots with the Heat, but for his career he’s still average 20.0 shots a game, which means it was even more before he joined the Heat.

      Also, Durant is in his 7th season and LBJ is in his 11th season. In LBJ’s 7th season in the league he was taking 20.1 shots a game.

      And even during his first two seasons with the Heat LBJ took 18.8 and 18.9 shots a game which is what Durant’s career shots per game is at.

      It’s only last year and so far this year that LBJ has taken less shots. And he did take more shots his first two seasons with the Heat so he could.

      So LBJ does have a better PER, Durant is the better shooter and LBJ has taken more shots per game than Durant for their careers and only in the last season and a half has he taken less shots.

      Oh, and last year, when LBJ was taking LESS shots with the Heat, he still took 17.8 shots a game. How many shots did Durant take last year per game? 17.7

      So LBJ saying he wishes he could take as many shots as Durant doesn’t hold water to me.

      I mean its basically just this year that Durant is taking more and it has to do with Westbrook being out.

      D Wade, if he were to go on the shelf for a month and a a half, I bet LBJ would take a couple more shots per game to make up for it.

      Also, LBJ is shooting less because D Wade is shooting the BEST he ever has so far in his career.

      There are many reasons why KD is shooting more than LBJ but LBJ is ignoring that D Wade is shooting his best ever and that Westbrook is on the shelf injured and that LBJ has taken more shots per game for his career and last season too than Durant.

      PERSPECTIVE is always needed.

  6. tomasekradek - Jan 15, 2014 at 12:38 PM

    He’s been talkin’ a lot of BS lately. I think it’s a pretty disrespectful to KD as he mentioned 16-32, 14-34 as opposed to his 12-16. Why not 20-30 for KD? We all get the point. And everyone knows Lebron is more efficient when it comes to FG and better all-around player so is it really necessary to up your FG on that example by about 15% and lower your biggest rivals by a few? He’s the greatest small man ever.

    • antistratfordian - Jan 15, 2014 at 2:28 PM

      Why not 20-30 for KD? Because the last two times Durant took over 30 shots he was in fact 14-34 and 16-32. Why would LeBron say 20-30 if he didn’t shoot 20-30?

      In any case, you’re approaching this all wrong. These guys are good friends – there is no disrespect intended. It’s just a matter of fact that recently Durant has taken over 30 shots twice in a week and LeBron – who said he always checks his friend’s box scores to see how they’re doing – sometimes misses those days (he’s only taken 30+ shots twice since coming to Miami).

      And, if anything, he’s throwing a bone to his buddy – who has a habit of sulking about 2nd place – to say he’s jealous of him in some way.

      • ProBasketballPundit - Jan 15, 2014 at 4:36 PM

        Can confirm. 16-32 and 14-34 for Durant. Can’t believe LeBron had those numbers on hand for a quote… or that he even pays attention to the stat lines around the league. I hope he isn’t being too stat conscious.

  7. whoisrdymlz - Jan 15, 2014 at 1:04 PM

    You mean envious, not jealous.

  8. deeballer - Jan 15, 2014 at 1:47 PM

    I’m sure KD is jealous of all your 1st place awards and championships.

  9. Yardley - Jan 15, 2014 at 3:16 PM

    Lebron’s comments are couched in a so-called compliment, but he’s really just tooting his own horn by making reference to his efficiency. Lebron has the luxury of picking his shots. Durant does not. Put Durant on the Heat and I’d argue he could achieve very near to the same efficiency rating.

  10. dinofrank60 - Jan 15, 2014 at 11:03 PM

    There’s no secret why Durant shoots more than LeBron. With Russell Westbrook out injured, the Thunder need Durant to carry them offensively.

    The Thunder need Durant to carry them, whether Westbrook is there or not.

    …we probably overrated players like Allen Iverson during their high-volume, low efficiency seasons.

    No, we all know Iverson was a gunner. You can tell by watching him play. But where would they get those points, especially leading the league in minutes?

    Efficiency – in this regard, not wasting possessions with missed shots…

    Then, maybe NBA players ought to make more shots. Everyone can do it, it’s real easy.
    … is becoming increasingly valued at the expense of volume stats like points per game.

    No, winning is valued over all. S

    • dinofrank60 - Jan 15, 2014 at 11:12 PM

      But, though Stephen Curry might be having a below average night, he’ll tell Mark Jackson; ” I don’t want to waste possessions anymore;my PER is dropping tonight.” I’m sure that would go over well at Oracle!

  11. stayhigh_247 - Jan 16, 2014 at 3:00 AM

    No need to be envious Lebron, Kd doesn’t have the essential hardware yet, so I’m pretty sure he’s jealous of you too!

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