April 18 (UPI) -- Michael Jordan rival Isiah Thomas says there is one thing that sets LeBron James apart from the man widely known as the greatest basketball player of all time -- coaching.
Thomas sat down with Tayshaun Prince and Kevin Garnett Monday night for the NBA on TNT during the Cleveland Cavaliers' 117-111 Game 2 victory. The Hall of Famer has a long-running feud with Jordan, but admitted the two are equally great, except for the help they had in achieving that greatness.
"We are talking about him potentially going to his seventh NBA Finals," Thomas said of James. "He has dominated this era of basketball that he has played in. To be able to do it consistently, at this level, in these many places: Cleveland, Miami, back to Cleveland."
"And the most impressive thing to me is that, every place he has gone, he has had a rookie coach," Thomas said. "You played under Doc Rivers, right? You played under Flip Saunders. You played under Larry Brown. All of our coaches, arguably, will be in the Hall of Fame. Chuck Daly is in the Hall of Fame. I don't know if LeBron James will ever play for a coach that ever gets to the Hall of Fame."
James, 32, has made 13 All-Star teams in 14 seasons. He is a four-time NBA MVP and three-time NBA Finals champion and MVP. He has played under Paul Silas, Brendan Malone, Mike Brown, Erik Spoelstra, David Blatt, and Tyronn Lue.
Jordan played for Phil Jackson, Doug Collins, Stan Albeck, and Kevin Loughery. He played under Dean Smith at the University of North Carolina.
"So when you talk about somebody who is self made, everything that he's learned, he has taught himself," Thomas said. "He hasn't had that Bill Russell. He hasn't had that Jo Jo White or that OG to sit down and talk. He has been the guy. Head-wise, he has got to be a basketball savant, genius, totally on another different level, that arguably we haven't seen in this league."
"I mean even when we talk about Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, they had John Wooden, Pat Riley...Jordan had Dean Smith. LeBron James has no coaching tree," Thomas said. "Which is crazy."
Thomas admitted to advising James, along with Jerry West. He said they call James from time-to-time, but don't talk daily.
The former Detroit Pistons star called James one of the three greatest players of all time during the 2016 NBA Finals.
"When I look at it, you're looking at LeBron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan. Pick either one of those three. Those are the guys, in my opinion right now, who deserve to be in that discussion," Thomas said on NBA TV.
But some critics, or "haters" as James calls them, won't ever put him in the top-5 for greatest NBA players ever.
After James' Cavaliers came back from a 3-1 deficit to the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals, Bill Simmons called James one of the three best ever. He said James was only behind Jordan and Bill Russell. Hall of Famer Charles Barkley went on his Any Given Wednesday HBO show to dispute the fact, saying James was in his top-10.
He hypocritically admitted that James has had the "greatest career ever."
"I'm not going to just move him past Tim Duncan and Kobe," Barkley told Simmons. "They didn't just die. But I will say this about LeBron James: I've never seen a man coming out of high school who has handled the success, been a great player, never got in a stitch of trouble. It's probably been the greatest career ever."
Barkley said James will "never" get to the top-5.
"Well, because, he's not going to be in the top 3. First of all, my top 5 is never going to change."
James' 27.61 player efficiency rating is No. 2 all time behind Jordan's 27.91. Thomas' 18.11 is No. 147 all time, according to Basketball Reference.