Leadership

Magic Johnson: This is what makes LeBron James one of the 'greatest' NBA players ever

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Jesse D. Garrabrant | Getty Images

Magic Johnson was one of the greatest basketball players in his day. Now, he's giving that title to LeBron James, 32, of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Johnson, who recently spoke with CNBC as the NBA Finals between the Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors was taking place, says that James has a quality that transcends other basketball stars out there: He's a true team player.

"He's special because he makes his teammates better and yet still plays at a high level himself," says Johnson.

James' teammate, James Jones, seems to agree. "His pride, his ego, he could easily go out and lead the league in triple-doubles every night. But his pride is about winning and making sure that his teammates are successful," Jones says in an interview with USA Today. "So his only thought in every situation is, 'How can I make these guys better? How can I take these guys to the promised land? How can I make these guys champions?'"

Johnson further described the three-time NBA champion and the league's four-time MVP as a "Special guy. Special player," and "One of the greatest that has ever laced them up."

That's high praise coming from Johnson, 57, who played point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers for 13 seasons. During his pro career, he was a five-time NBA champion and was also named the NBA's MVP three times.

The remarks come as James recently spoke about his retirement plans. His dream? To own an NBA team. "I will own a team someday," he says in an interview with The Athletic. "That's my next thing."

His success on the court has set him up for his post-NBA plans nicely. In fact, the star has an estimated net worth of $275 million, according to Forbes.

But he isn't going anywhere quite yet. In an ESPN interview last year, James says he plans to play until his late 30s. Given that he's currently 32, it seems like he has at least four more years.

"Before he's done, he can be the greatest" who's ever played, says Johnson. "We'll see what happens and how many more championships he's able to win."