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Shaq: LeBron is the smartest player in NBA

Published: 9:07AM Saturday December 12, 2009 Source: ONE Sport

Shaquille O'Neal has labelled Cleveland Cavaliers team-mate LeBron James as 'phenomenal' and believes he's the smartest player in the NBA.

O'Neal doesn't give praise lightly, but ESPN reported on Saturday that the 'Diesel' has huge respect for LeBron.

The comments come after a poll of NBA players and coaches voted Kobe Bryant as having the highest 'basketball IQ' while LeBron was fifth.

"His basketball IQ is phenomenal," O'Neal said of James.

"He could coach in the NBA right now."

The 24-year-old James has impressed O'Neal with his thorough knowledge of the game - his understanding of angles, defence, how to set up team-mates, how opponents defend various plays and players, and of not only his own responsibilities on the court but those of all his team-mates as well.

O'Neal is still yet to speak about who is the better player out of LeBron or his former Los Angeles Lakers team-mate Bryant.

But he said that James has the advantage in basketball IQ, saying he's the smartest star he has played with in his 18-year career.

LeBron was flattered by O'Neal's comments, but was unsure about his coaching future.

"I've never thought about coaching before," James said.

"I just know the game and have always been a student of the game."