LeBron 'definitely the greatest' all-around player - Zamalek's Ike Diogu

ByLeonard Solms ESPN logo
Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Nigeria captain Ike Diogu played against the likes of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal during his near-decade in the NBA, but says LeBron James stands out as the most complete opponent he ever faced.

Diogu, who will turn out for defending BAL champions Zamalek this upcoming season, was selected ninth in the first round of the 2005 NBA draft by the Golden State Warriors and played for one and a half seasons in San Francisco.

In 2007, the power forward/center moved to the Indiana Pacers as part of a trade deal in which then-Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird described him as the "gem". He went on to play for the Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs, making 225 appearances.

Arizona State alum Diogu told ESPN: "I think that LeBron is the greatest all-round player of all time.

"I played against Kobe, I played against Shaq, I played against LeBron. Those are all some of the greatest players of all time. I just think that LeBron is the best all-around [at] being able to pass, score, rebound... just, everything.

"He's definitely the greatest. Obviously, to be the size that he is and have some of the physical gifts that he has is pretty crazy -- and [to do what] he's still doing today."

Since his NBA career ended in 2012, Diogu has become a prized journeyman in Europe and China, and is currently preparing for the Basketball Africa League with Zamalek. He won the 2015 AfroBasket with Nigeria and was the MVP in 2017, with D'Tigers claiming silver.

However, he still has one regret regarding his NBA career: "I just wish I wouldn't have had some of the injuries I had, so that I could have played more. I don't think I really got to show what I was really capable of doing.

"I definitely showed flashes and spurts when I was given playing time, but then I would have untimely injuries that would just derail my momentum."

Diogu played 69 games for the Warriors in 2005-06, his first NBA season, and never reached that tally again, with 14 of his 18 career starts coming during that campaign.

However, he did show glimpses of his best form even after leaving the Warriors. His best game in terms of points came in 2009, when he scored 32 for the Kings against the Denver Nuggets.

He added: "My NBA career has a little bit of a question mark in my eyes just because I didn't really get to do all the things that I was capable of doing... but I am proud that I was able to compete in the NBA at a high level.

"Some people go from college to the NBA and they're overwhelmed by the athleticism or the pace of the game and that wasn't the case for me at all. Not only did I show that I was an NBA player, but [also] that I could compete and dominate at the highest level."

Diogu's next challenge will be to help Zamalek defend their BAL title under Will Voigt. They will be on home soil in Cairo for the six-team Nile Conference, which will take place from April 9-19.

A top four finish will see Zamalek advance to the playoffs in Kigali the following month.

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