LeBron James is not only the most powerful man in basketball, but arguably the most powerful in all of sports. Hell, it wouldn't even be a stretch to say he's one of the most powerful men in the world given the impact he has on society and popular culture. Kids want to be like LeBron James more than they want to be like Elon Musk. It can be hard to live a life when you draw attention wherever you go and you're as famous as LeBron is. Still, in the face of rumors regarding his personal and professional life, The King has managed to maintain a lot of the relationships he had when he came into the league. He's still married to his high school sweetheart, maintains relationships with members of his high school basketball team, and is best friends with three players who came into the league in the same draft class as him.
Of course, when you're the most popular athlete in the sports world, you're also going to have your detractors and enemies. While LeBron has primarily remained professional in his dealings with other people in and outside of the NBA, he has nonetheless gained a few enemies throughout the years, whether by fault of his own or due to jealousy and other petty reasons.
15 Close With: Chris Paul
LeBron James has three best friends in the NBA. The other two will obviously be featured later on this list, but we begin with Chris Paul, who was drafted fourth overall in the 2005 NBA Draft, two years after LeBron went first overall to the Cleveland Cavaliers. His other two best friends were drafted in the same class as LeBron, but his relationship with Paul stems from the duo playing AAU basketball together as teenagers, playing in the 2003 McDonald's All-American Game, and being on the U.S. Olympic team together.
They were also best men at each other's weddings.
"He's like one of my best friends," Paul said of James in a 2015 interview with the LA Times. "We talk every week, all the time." Moreover, Paul was even named godfather of LeBron James Jr. and regularly attends his high school basketball games when he gets a chance. According to that same LA Times article, Paul was even present at the hospital for the birth of James' two sons. You can understand, then, why so many insiders suggest LeBron might sign with the Houston Rockets this offseason as he attempts to play with one of his best friends before the end of his career.
14 Can't Stand: Charles Barkley
Charles Barkley might be the most entertaining aspect of the NBA on TNT, but he isn't universally loved by everyone. While fans enjoy his mix of hot takes and humor, he has often been a tad harsh on LeBron James, which always comes across as a bit absurd given James is undeniably the best - and most dominant - player in the past 20 years. Like Skip Bayless, but with a more entertaining spin, Barkley has unfairly criticized James in the past for his play and apparent involvement in player personnel decisions in Cleveland.
The feud reached a boiling point in February 2017, when Barkley called James' comments about needing more help "whiny" and "inappropriate."
James, who typically doesn't respond to criticism from media personalities, fired back at Barkley, calling him a "hater" and bringing up Barkley's own indiscretions during his career. "I'm not going to let him disrespect my legacy like that," the King told ESPN. "I'm not the one who threw somebody through a window. I never spit on a kid. I never had unpaid debt in Las Vegas. I never said, 'I'm not a role model.' I never showed up to All-Star Weekend on Sunday because I was in Vegas all weekend partying."
13 Close With: 2Chainz
LeBron James' relationship with rappers has been well-documented throughout the course of his career. When you're as popular as he is, there's a strong chance you're going to be shown love in the rap game. Not only is he referenced at least once by the majority of rappers, he maintains a close relationship with several, including 2 Chainz, who recently stated he and The King are becoming best friends. In the past, James has shared videos of himself listening to the rapper's verse on a Migos song on the album Culture 2.
Just a few weeks ago, prior to the start of the playoffs, LeBron visited 2 Chainz' New York studio after the rapper sat courtside and exchanged pleasantries with LBJ during a Cavs-Knicks game. 2 Chainz shared Instagram videos of the in-studio meeting which, aside from playing music, apparently consisted of famous people showing off their incredibly-expensive watches. "Half a million in rock ... (but) not a stone in sight," 2 Chainz is heard exclaiming at the sight of the watches worn by himself and LeBron as well as the King's business associates and friends Rich Paul and Maverick Carter. A couple years earlier, 2 Chainz told Complex that LeBron is his hook up for sneakers.
12 Can't Stand: Skip Bayless
Whether it's on First Take or Undisputed on Fox Sports or Twitter, Skip Bayless has been LeBron James' most vocal enemy over the past decade-plus. At first it was a tad annoying, but it's now it's almost comical, not to mention evident that it's Bayless' way of remaining relevant by attaching his name to LeBron. The King could put together 82 triple-doubles in a single season and Bayless would still chime in with some stupid hot take and claim he is nowhere near the level of Michael Jordan. To his credit, LeBron doesn't pay any attention to Bayless, but you could forgive him if he sounded off. Here's a sample of things Bayless has said about LeBron.
"I'm never quite sold on his mental toughness... 17 players toughed it out and only LeBron James cramped," Bayless said this in regard to James' constant cramping during his day with the Miami Heat and, while it's absurd enough, it's nowhere near this doozy: "This was a classic lack of intangibles on LeBron James' part, he wasn't there when his team needed him most." Anybody watching the 2018 NBA playoffs will have a hard time finding any validity in that statement. Those comments are just the tip of the iceberg.
11 Close With: Dwyane Wade
What more can we say that you didn't already know about LeBron James and Dwyane Wade's relationship? The pair developed a friendship early in their careers, were both taken in the top five of the 2003 NBA Draft, and have played together on both the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers. James chose to go to South Beach not only because he felt the Heat were well positioned to win championships, but because he wanted to play with one of his three best friends in the league. And, this past summer, he was leading the charge for the Cavs to sign Wade, despite the fact the aging veteran is far from what he used to in regard to productivity.
James was even consulted the Cavaliers before the team opted to deal Wade back to the Heat and, despite no longer being teammates, James has continued to share his love for Wade on social media.
Following the trade, he shared a photo of Wade in Miami with the caption, "Truly happy for my brother @dwyanewade!! It's how it's suppose to be. Love you my guy!! #WadeCountryBack."
He also emphatically cheered him on from the Cavs locker room two weeks later when Wade turned back the clock in a game-winning performance over the Philadelphia 76ers.
10 Can't Stand: LaVar Ball
We'll be honest, LeBron doesn't let his emotions get the best of time too often, so it's not exactly easy to become a bitter enemy of his. But, with that said, we figured it made sense to kick off the list of people he can't stand with an obvious selection, LaVar Ball. Outside of his children, there isn't a player in the NBA who has time for the outspoken father of Lonzo Ball. James is able to separate the two as he has been shown talking to and joking with Lonzo on the court in past games this season, but he clearly has no time for the patriarch of the Big Baller Family.
LaVar has taken several shots at LeBron in the past year, but finally went so far as to receive a response from The King when he claimed his sons would be better than LeBron's two sons, who have been dominating on the AAU circuit.
LeBron clearly wasn't happy with LaVar mentioning his children.
"Keep my kids' name out of your mouth. Keep my family out of your mouth. This is dad to dad. It's a problem now," he said in 2017 when the Cavaliers practiced at UCLA's campus following a road win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
9 Close With: Ben Simmons
A 21 year old native of Melbourne, Australia, Ben Simmons was selected first overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2016 NBA Draft and, after sitting out a year due to injury, proved himself as one of the game's elite young players with a phenomenal rookie season in which he averaged 15.8 points, 8.2 assists, and 8.1 rebounds per game. His all-around abilities from the point make him one of the most complete players we've seen since LeBron James entered the league and The King feels the same way.
The two have shared candid moments on the court and, as recent as March, LeBron referred to Simmons as "The Young King," effectively naming him as the future of the NBA.
The two have actually been friends since 2015, when Simmons participated in a Nike basketball camp attended by James and other NBA players. James has since served as a big brother to the budding superstar, stating recently, "I'm honored that a young, gifted kid would even allow me to be a part of his life and be able to mentor him and be a big brother to him." Apparently, during that same camp, he told Simmons: "You have an opportunity to be better than me. But you can’t skip steps. You have to do the work."
8 Can't Stand: Lance Stephenson
You might have heard the Nicki Minaj lyric from her song Only with Lil Wayne and Drake and, if you're a basketball fan, you know why she references Stephenson. A few years ago, during the Eastern Conference Finals, when James was a member of the Miami Heat, he was standing next to Stephenson, who decided he would try to throw The King off his game by lightly blowing in his ear. It was caught on camera and became a meme-worthy moment. Two years prior, Stephenson had shown LeBron the universal sign for choking after he missed two crucial free throws. Later in the series, members of the Heat unsuccessfully attempted to get into the Indiana locker room.
The on-court antics continued this season when Stephenson was accused of punching LeBron below the belt and receiving a flagrant foul for his actions. Their rivalry continued in the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs, but didn't result in much other than a few hilarious moments of LeBron laughing at Stephenson's offbeat antics. James might not be able to tolerate Stephenson, but their rivalry is one of the most entertaining in the league.
7 Close With: Kendrick Lamar
Like Drake and 2 Chainz, LeBron maintains a close personal relationship with Kendrick Lamar, the Compton-based rapper who is not only one of the most popular and best-selling artists today, but also a Pulitzer Prize winner.
Lamar's music is essentially the soundtrack to LeBron's life as he often shows video of himself listening to the tunes and, believe it or not, The King is even responsible for Kendrick releasing one of his albums early.
Following the release of the award-winning To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick released an eight-track untitled album and his label tweeted for fans to make sure to thank LeBron. "That's what they said. They said to thank me. So, appreciate it. You're welcome," LeBron replied during a shootaround. "[We're] really close (friends)," LeBron said at the time. "Admire each other's work and each other's craft and even with him being all the way on the West coast and me being here, we share a lot of qualities, being around the same age."
Videos have since surfaced of LeBron at Kendrick concerts and the two hanging out prior to games. Moreover, King James even received an advanced copy of DAMN. before it was released to the public.
6 Can't Stand: Kyrie Irving
Where do we begin with LeBron and his relationship with Kyrie Irving? Things seemed like they couldn't be better a couple of years ago, when the Cavaliers overcame a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. LeBron was being LeBron and Kyrie was hitting clutch shots to keep the team alive and eventually win a championship. There wasn't any indication of tension between the two players. However, that wasn't the case during this past offseason as Irving, seemingly out of nowhere, demanded a trade. He ended up in Boston, where he had the opportunity to become a star on his own.
The belief is that was what Irving wanted all along, but he told ESPN's Jackie MacMullan that the thought the Cavaliers were trying to push him out in the first place, to which James responded, "That makes absolutely no sense." Irving made no mention of his intentions to leave to LeBron and King James took it as a slight. While they seemingly made up during the NBA All-Star Game, they're not regularly talking to each other anymore and there's no doubt their friendship has been tarnished. Don't expect them to reunite this offseason in free agency.
5 Close With: Drake
If you're watching the Toronto Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers playoff series or have watched the previous two series, you might think there's a beef between Drake and LeBron, but it's no more than friendly banter between the longtime friends. In fact, cameras even caught Drake and LeBron sharing a laugh during a stoppage in Game 1 after the former gave what looked like a verbal tongue lashing to the latter.
The two have been pictured together basically ever since Drake broke out as a megastar mainstream rapper. The 6ix God has even referenced King James countless times in his songs and, back in January, even promised to release a track honoring James for reaching the 30,000 points milestone.
"Seems like every time we look up, you're setting another milestone or breaking another record and I always tell you that you're one of the most inspirational people in my life," Drake said in a video for LeBron's video production company, Uninterrupted. "Every time you do something like this I always try to get in the studio and make the song that would go with the moment." If Game 1 of the Raptors-Cavs series was any indication, Drizzy is going to have to hit the studio to make a song about LeBron's dominance over his hometown team.
4 Can't Stand: The President
This might not be a surprise. There's really no in-between with the President of the United States. His biggest supporters are as loyal as they come and will defend his every action, while his opponents are fierce in their disapproval and opposition of his policies and actions. LeBron isn't alone in his dislike - almost the entire NBA, including outspoken coaches Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich, detests the former Apprentice host - but he's one of the most vocal.
LeBron found himself as an opponent to Fox News in early 2018 as he was told to "shut up and dribble" by political contributor Laura Ingrahm after he shared his opinion of the President, which wasn't that positive:
"The number-one job in America, the appointed person is someone who doesn’t understand the people. And really don’t give a (expletive) about the people. When I was growing up, there was like three jobs that you looked for inspiration ... It was the President of the United States, it was whoever was best in sports and it was the greatest musician at the time." This came months after his "U bum" tweet directed at the man in charge was the most retweeted tweet of 2017.
3 Close With: Carmelo Anthony
LeBron and Carmelo Anthony formed an instant bond when they first met at a showcase game in Trenton, New Jersey in 2002. James' St. Vincent-St. Mary team was playing Anthony's Oak Hill Academy and the two players met in a hotel prior to the game and bonded over the next day.
They became so close in that short of time that Anthony's head coach Steve Smith grew concerned his star player wouldn't be focused enough to contain James: "I was like, 'Melo, you gonna be able to go at this guy tonight?'" Smith said. "He said, 'Coach, don't worry about it. When they throw the ball up, I want to beat him as bad as I want to beat anybody.'"
According to Anthony, the two superstars even made a vow to each other to never let anybody come between their friendship and nothing has.
They talk and text regularly and, as with Paul and Wade, Anthony attended James' wedding and has been involved in his kids' lives.
Moreover, Anthony's son Kiyan is the same age as James' youngest son Bryce and, according to Anthony, they're also best friends. "It's bigger than basketball. This is not just for show, not just for while we're playing," stressed Anthony of their friendship.
2 Can't Stand: Dan Gilbert
LeBron might be back in Cleveland and might have even won a championship with his hometown team and heck, he might even have said all the right things during the past few years regarding his relationship with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, but don't be fooled - he still hates him. As recent as February of this year, it was reported they had a rocky relationship, which is what you would expect given their past history. It makes sense that LeBron came back as a favor to the city and the fans of the Cavaliers, not as a favor to Gilbert. In fact, that he came back with Gilbert still owning the team says a lot about his passion for the city.
After winning the NBA Finals in 2017, James spoke openly with the Uninterrupted about how he felt after Gilbert penned a vicious letter directed at James for leaving Cleveland to sign with the Miami Heat. Gilbert may have stepped over the line in his disgust with James and The King didn't forget: "It disrespected my name. And my name is not just myself. It's my wife, it's my kids, my grandfather. My mother. So many more people." You can understand why so many people suggest he's signing elsewhere this offseason.
1 Close With: Maverick Carter
LeBron James keeps a tight circle and no more is that evident than his relationship with his business partner, Maverick Carter, who also happens to be one of his longtime friends and teammates at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.
In fact, you could easily make the case that Carter is James' closest and most-trusted friend, especially considering the money and business opportunities he manages for The King.
Being LeBron's best friend and business partner entails quite a bit. According to GQ, "He's also the Cavs star's business manager. But most important, he's the creative director of all things King James. What does that entail? Well, NBA basketball and an apparel empire. A Hollywood production company. (The Starz show Survivor's Remorse is Mav's.) A scholarship program. And a media platform called Uninterrupted, where players tell their own stories."
LeBron also counts Carter as one of his original Four Horsemen from Ohio. Carter previously worked with other athletes, including Johnny Manziel, but has since stated that was a mistake, given all the time LeBron and his business pursuits demand. "Other athletes always viewed me as LeBron's guy. They thought: He can't be my guy, too. It was a mistake because I lost time on it. And managing LeBron was enough. It was plenty to do."