NBA Executive: LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard Regard Each Other With ‘Respect’ and ‘Fear’

Brad Sullivan
3 Min Read

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James and Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard will potentially face each other in a marquee matchup on Christmas Day.

Based on a recent report, the two players regard one another with an appropriate level of fear and respect.

Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report looked at the rivalry from the perspective of Leonard’s offseason decision to sign with the Clippers instead of the Lakers. That choice, according to one NBA executive, appeared to clarify the rivalry that exists between the two players.

“An Eastern Conference general manager, his identity concealed because the league prohibits executives from discussing other teams’ players, agrees that the James-Leonard rivalry is apparent to him, even if the combatants won’t come right out and say it,” Bucher wrote.

“‘I would say there’s mutual respect but that there’s an appropriate level of fear as well,’ the GM says. ‘They know each other are really talented. But there’s not a lot of admiration. I don’t see them going out to dinner.'”

Both players have offered hints in recent months that while they respect each other, they don’t necessarily like one another. None of these expressions have been overt, but it’s hard to miss the sentiments that each player holds.

Examples include a Leonard advertisement which indicated that Los Angeles was “his city,” and also included an accompanying photo that showed a keychain of a crown. The jewelry was seen as a shot at James’ nickname of King James.

As for James, he recently took an indirect shot at Leonard by criticizing his strategy of load management. That term was popularized by Leonard’s former team, the Toronto Raptors, who had him sit out games last year despite no specific injury. The Clippers have continued that practice this season.

So far in the 2019-20 season, the two players have only met on opening night, with Leonard’s Clippers winning a 112-102 decision.

Like that game, the Christmas contest will be nationally televised, with each team having plenty of incentive to get the win.

With James currently dealing with an injury, however, it is possible that fans will have to wait until late January to see the two superstars face off.

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Brad is a freelance writer for, who can clearly recall watching Lakers games in 1972 as they captured the first of their 11 Los Angeles-based titles. The franchise's evolution into a beloved and iconic franchise among its fan base since that memorable year allows for a wider perspective to be a part of his writing about the team's current fortunes.