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“He Knew Not To Call Certain Sh*t”: LeBron James Was Cognizant Of Kenyon Martin’s Presence On The Court For Specific Plays

Jay Mahesh Lokegaonkar
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"He Knew Not To Call Certain Sh*t": LeBron James Was Cognizant Of Kenyon Martin's Presence On The Court For Specific Plays

On the latest episode of Gil’s Arena podcast, retired NBA stars Gibert Arenas and Kenyon Martin discussed the smartest players they played against during their careers. Arenas named LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Jason Kidd. Martin concurred and explained why James was on his list. He said:

“It’s always interesting [playing against LeBron]. There’s always gamesmanship. Figuring out the matchups so you can know what plays not to run. Whom to put in pick-and-rolls, whom not to put in pick-and-rolls. Certain things like that. He knew not to call certain sh*t. Run certain s**t when I was out there. ‘I’m not about to let y’all keep running the plays I know y’all about to run.'”


Martin explained that James would force teams to move away from their preferred play calls to avoid getting picked off by the superstar. He claimed James would communicate to his teammates about the plays the opposition team was about to run just by looking at the players’ positions. That would irk teams and leave them no choice but to change their play call.

Martin added he cannot stand players who lacked basketball IQ. He said:

“I can’t stand dumb basketball players. It really bothers me to explain something to you and it’s been shown to you, and then explained to you again and shown to you again. It’s baffling to me that you don’t have the capacity to retain it.”

Arenas chimed in and said talented players who are benched and get limited playing time are “dumb.” He said:

“They not smart enough to pick up what’s going on. They make too many mental mistakes so you can’t rely on them. They say, ‘Why don’t they play this guy? They hate him!’ He’s dumb!”

While Martin and Arenas’ assessment sounds harsh, it’s spot on. Running a play successfully requires all five players to play their roles perfectly. Whether it’s spacing by being at their positions beyond the arc, setting screens for pick-and-rolls, or being available to catch or throw alley-oops. If a player fluffs their responsibility, it doesn’t matter how good the play design is. Players need to understand their roles at the bare minimum. Otherwise, their presence on the court hurts their team regardless of their talent.

Tales of LeBron James’ High Basketball IQ

LeBron James is a basketball savant. He is blessed with a photographic memory and processes the game faster than anyone else. His former teammate, Iman Shumpert, once explained how incredible the superstar’s understanding of the game is. In an interview with VladTV, he said:

“It’s scary. There’ll be times where [LeBron] will be in the game where he’ll be like, and he doesn’t mean it, but he’ll be like, ‘J.R. (Smith)! Hand!’ Like, throw it to my hand. [He’ll] snatch it. Palm it. And he’ll be in the post and he’ll be like, ‘Shump, if he move, cut right behind! And he’ll start his dribble. [He’ll say] ‘Trist! Cut, cut! Take him with you!’ And everything he’s saying, you watch it happen. And as soon as my defender flinch, I cut, he passes and dunk.”

Not only James’ teammates but his fiercest rivals also laud his incredible basketball IQ. During a post-game interview in 2018, James broke down every play of the Boston Celtics‘ 7-0 run in the fourth quarter of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Golden State WarriorsDraymond Green was asked if he saw the clip. He said yes and then called out the journalists in attendance for their soft response to James’ incredible breakdown. He said:

“He should’ve gotten more than [an applause]. He should’ve gotten a standing ovation.”

James’ physical tools, combined with his impeccable basketball IQ and work ethic make him one of the most dangerous weapons in the sport’s history. It explains why he has been an All-NBA level player for 20 years.

About the author

Jay Mahesh Lokegaonkar

Jay Mahesh Lokegaonkar

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Jay Lokegaonkar is a basketball journalist who has been following the sports as a fan 2005. He has worked in a slew of roles covering the NBA, including writer, editor, content manager, social media manager, and head of content since 2018. However, his primary passion is writing about the NBA. Especially throwback stories about the league's iconic players and franchises. Revisiting incredible tales and bringing scarcely believable stories to readers are one his main interests as a writer.

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