Midway through the third quarter on Tuesday night LeBron James dished behind-his-back to Kevin Love for a three. It was career assist number 6,136 for James. The announcers were quick to inform us that James had now passed Scottie Pippen for “most assists ever by a forward.” It was surprising for a couple of reasons: LeBron is nowhere near the end of his career and–with better shooters on this team than any team he’s ever played on–he’ll pad this record going forward so that no one will ever touch it. LeBron James will always be the NBA forward with the most assists.
But the other surprising thing, in light of the assists, was hearing LeBron James described as a forward. It’s technically correct. Despite disruptive change in how the game is played, basketball players are still called what they were when the game was invented: usually two guards, two forwards and a center roam the floor. But James has the ball in his hands a lot. And he very often plays from 26-feet out, initiating the pick and roll, banging long jumpers–that’s guard play, traditionally. In fact it closely resembles the position Pippen played. It’s notable, too, that James–again like Pippen–very often guards an opposing guard, rather than a forward. It’s a great record and congrats to James–he plays a beautiful generous style of hoops. But doesn’t he mostly play big guard?