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The NBA is buzzing over LeBron's 30th

Players, coaches and NBA legends chime in on LeBron James' milestone birthday.

POSTED: Dec 30, 2014 4:32 PM ET

From NBA.com staff reports

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NBA players, coaches and legends had plenty to say about LeBron James as he enters his third decade of life.

Turning 30 in everyday life is seen as an accomplishment -- a time where one's career may just be starting to take flight, one may be settling down and raising a family or one where any number of personal, professional and other goals are reached. In the NBA, turning 30 takes on a different connotation and as LeBron James reaches the Big 3-0, players current and former -- as well as NBA coaches and figures from around the game -- share their thoughts on what 30 might look like for LeBron.

Early memories of LeBron

LeBron's All-Time Top 30 Plays

Watch all the chase down blocks, high-flying dunks, and clutch jumpers in this highlight of the Top 30 plays of LeBron James' career.

"I got a chance to see him up close his rookie season. He had the work ethic when he walked through the door. He knew what he wanted out of his career. He was ready to work to be great, not just good, but all-time great. So to see what he's become is not surprising."
-- Los Angeles Lakers power forward Carlos Boozer, who was a teammate of LeBron's on the Cavs in 2003-04

"He had a young team with Cleveland. It wasn't until he got to Miami that he really had a veteran group that knew how to really close games. His jump shot wasn't as consistent. He didn't have quite as much confidence with the jumper and now he's got confidence with everything."
-- Golden State Warriors coach and former TNT broadcaster Steve Kerr

"The thing that stands out most is that Game 5 in Detroit with me being right there. Obviously growing up watching the Pistons, I remember watching that game like it was yesterday."
-- Golden State Warriors forward and Michigan native Draymond Green

"Keith Dambrot, his high school coach, was a long-time college coaching buddy of mine. When he went back to Akron and started coaching LeBron, I remember him telling me about him. As a freshman, he said, 'John, I might have the best player in the state.' I said, 'He's a freshman.' He goes, 'I know. But he may be the best player in the state.' I remember in Los Angeles, walking into a gym. I think it might have been the Pump's event. I'm going to say Redondo (Beach). Somewhere down in the South Bay area. Maybe three courts away, this guy makes a play and I thought to myself, 'That's him.' I'll never forget that. I asked. I said, 'Is that LeBron James?' And someone told me it was. You could almost see the Chosen One at that time. That was after his sophomore or junior year in high school."
-- Milwaukee Bucks GM John Hammond

LeBron James Top 10 Plays with the Cleveland Cavaliers

Relive the top ten plays from LeBron James as a Cleveland Cavalier.

"I had the good fortune to call LeBron's first NBA game which was in Sacramento and I've watched him throughout his career, obviously, and it has been a treat. I'm such a big fan because he plays the game the right way and also because he has continued to improve upon his skills."
-- Sacramento Kings TV analyst Jerry Reynolds

Where have the years gone?

LeBron James Career Points Milestones

As LeBron James approaches 20,000 career points, take a look back as he reaches other important points milestones along the way.

"I think the biggest thing is maturity wise. He's really grown up. You've got to remember, there was so much thrown on him as youngster, going back to high school, and all the pressure and all the expectations. In his last year, my the fifth year in Cleveland, things went down. It didn't end pretty there, with how we lost to Boston and was he staying/was he going. But through all that, it only made him stronger. It only made him a better leader."
-- Former Sacramento Kings coach Michael Malone, who was a Cleveland Cavaliers assistant coach from 2005-10 during LeBron's tenure there

"[Seeing him turn 30] makes me feel old. I remember when he was in high school. So it seemed like it's flown by."
-- Chicago Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy

"I didn't even know that. I was think he'd be maybe more 27, 28. I mean, time flies. I remember his first game in Sacramento back then, when he came in with all the hype. For him to live up to that hype and have an amazing career is outstanding. He's a heckuva player. But that surprises me -- I didn't know he was that old already. "
-- Dallas Mavericks superstar forward Dirk Nowitzki

I got a chance to see him up close his rookie season. He had the work ethic when he walked through the door. He knew what he wanted out of his career. He was ready to work to be great, not just good but all time great.

– Former teammate Carlos Boozer

"We've seen him since he was a teenager and any 18-year-old kid, whether they're famous or not, is going to be an 18-year-old kid. So for him I've been impressed by his maturity. The fact that he's been actively aware, conscious of being more mature and learning about the game and being a student of the game and the history of the game, being a student of game plans, of why we do this and why we do that. I've been very impressed seeing his growth in the mental part of the game. I think he's got an unusual ability to see the game. Not everybody sees it like he does. So to see that growth in him on a bright light stage has been impressive."
-- Houston Rockets TV analyst Matt Bullard

"He's 30? Really? Time does go by quickly. Geez oh whiz."
-- San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich

NBA Action: LeBron's Milestones

LeBron James is the youngest player in league history to score 20,000 points.

"He's grown up before our eyes, from the teenage phenom into the the best player in the game and done it all before his 30th birthday."
-- Chicago Bulls veteran center Nazr Mohammed

"I'm sure he's feeling all of his years. He's been playing in the league so long and really been in the spotlight for even longer, so it probably feels like he's lived through so much when in reality he's still a young fella. Thirty is that first real milestone age after you hit 21 and by then he was already deep into becoming the player he has been for years now."
-- Carlos Boozer

On-court advice for the new 30-year old

"No, 30 doesn't really mean anything. I don't know why it would. I don't look at any age. I just look at how they play. Timmy [Duncan] and Manu [Ginobili] are 37 and 38, so why would I think that 30's any sort of a limit? I'm thinking athletically, 'does 30 mean anything to 'em athletically?' No. I think everybody's a different entity. People change their games along the way. They might change their interests once they leave the court. Hopefully people grow. But I don't think of 30 any more than I do of 40, 50 or 60. Or 70."
-- Gregg Popovich

Chris Rock Has Some Advice For LeBron

Chris Rock and the Top Five crew give some advice for LeBron James as he turns 30.

"I think 30 is the new 27. It's certainly a big round number. Definitely people associate it with starting to get old, I think. Not getting old but starting to get old. With new science and medicine and technology, and the way they take care of bodies in sports, I don't think it's really an 'old' number. ... It was more like 32 that it hit me. As you get older, you have to be a little more leery of everything. You just don't bounce back like you once did. You've got to eat better, you've got to drink better, you've got to stretch better -- all that stuff. As you age, you have to try to do stuff to combat it."
-- Mike Dunleavy

"I was a little freaked out by 30. Just more, it sounds a lot older than 29. Body-wise, I still felt great at 30. I didn't think I started to feel a little more [wear and tear] until I was 33, 34 and started to get the knee problems. Before that ... we had our championship run when I was, I think, 32. I was playing some of my best basketball. Thirty just sounds a lot older than 29. But I think in basketball now, with the nutrition and the structure and the training, I think 30 is still right in the prime. If you take care of your body, you can push your career longer than you think."
-- Dirk Nowitzki

All-Access: Cavaliers Open the Season

An inside look at LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers as they make their highly-anticipated season debut at the Q.

"I do think people are more able now to play beyond 30 at a high level. The clock ticked a little louder back then. I never thought 30 was old for me as a player. What hurt me was, I started getting injured. The worst injury I ever had was when I was 20. But it started taking a toll when I was 30, because that injury led to other things."
-- Brooklyn Nets assistant coach Paul Westphal.

Every time you walk out that tunnel and you hear those fans yelling your name, that's gonna stop. So you cherish every moment.

– Houston Rockets guard Jason Terry

"Enjoy it. Definitely. Because it does come to an end. I was 35 when I retired. I don't know how old he'll be. But those first couple of years after you retire, it's hard to kind of get out of the player mentality and get into real life. It is difficult to do. So maximize and play as long as you can. That's what I tell everybody."
-- Matt Bullard

"You appreciate every shootaround, every practice, every plane ride with the fellas, because it's gonna all come to an end one day. Every time you walk out that tunnel and you hear those fans yelling your name, that's gonna stop. So you cherish every moment."
-- Houston Rockets reserve guard Jason Terry.

"At 30 in life, you're still making mistakes. You're still trying to feel your way through business, through family issues, things of that nature. I had a bunch of children, as everyone knows, and I'm trying to figure out am I going to stay in Houston or am I going to uproot everybody and go back to Connecticut. I was still energetic about the game. I still loved the game very much. I could still play the game. But after 10-11 years in the league the star starts to dim a little bit, especially if you haven't gotten a ring yet."
-- Hall of Famer and Houston Rockets TV analyst Calvin Murphy.

CNN Exclusive: LeBron James

Rachel Nichols goes one-on-one with LeBron James in his first extensive interview since returning to the Cavaliers.

"I think it's probably dawned on LeBron that it's not he's going to continue to get better forever. I don't know that he will, but he can still be the best player in the world for two or three years."
-- Jerry Reynolds

"Things off the court become a little more natural. How you relate to people, the press, all the media. The maturation really kicks in. At that point, you're also starting to think what do I want to do after the game. You start to see your mortality ahead of you. Then I started to lose (Dave) DeBusschere and Willis (Reed) and that meant I started having to play more minutes and my role changed on the team. ... Now I'm the captain of the team. You lose a step. It's always a young man's game. They're always looking for flaws in your character, in your abilities. But it makes you work harder. The older you get in this game, the harder you work to maintain where you are."
-- Hall of Famer and New York Knicks TV analyst Walt "Clyde" Frazier.

He should learn that he doesn't need to fly in the air all the time. If he stays on the ground, he'll extend his career. And that's coming from a guy who spent a fair amount of time in the air.

– Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins

"My advice to LeBron is this: All of us can't play above the rim forever. That's one thing I learned. As I got 30, I started working on my outside shooting. What kills me is when people say all I did was dunk. Well, yeah, if they only looked at the highlights, that's all they'd see. ... I think what LeBron should do is learn to pick his spots, when to dunk and when to shoot from the outside, pretty much what he has been doing over the last few years. He's such a great all-around player that he doesn't rely on one thing to beat you. He should learn that he doesn't need to fly in the air all the time. If he stays on the ground, he'll extend his career. And that's coming from a guy who spent a fair amount of time in the air."
-- Hall of Famer and Atlanta Hawks TV analyst Dominique Wilkins.

"Well, I think from a player standpoint -- and I'm only guessing -- societies change. Just like being 50 now is like being 40 before. Everything has shifted older. So now you see more and more players playing at 35, 36, 37 years old, and playing till they're 40. So I think the demarcation of being 30 isn't what it used to be. I thought it used to be, well, he's over 30; but now you see how productive players are in their 30s. With the way things have improved, I don't think it's the same line this was before."
-- Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts

"At 29-30, you're at the height of your powers. I never felt better in my life than at that time. That's when you can jump off a building in a single bound, a tall building. If you can stay away from injuries, that's your physical peak as a basketball player. At 31, you're still going strong. You start to go a little downhill at 32. Unless you're Kobe Bryant."
-- Hall of Famer and Houston Rockets TV analyst Clyde Drexler.

"When he first came into the league, it was 48 minutes full-tilt. That's gone. You saw that a couple years ago. He's a very bright young man. He understands the game. He's played at this level forever. So it's up to him if he wants to change right now or if he wants to give it another year to see if his athleticism is still there. Personally I think it's time for him to stop being the man, start teaching somebody to do the dirty work for a while. Then it comes down to the big plays in a game and then you take over."
-- Calvin Murphy

Some off-court advice, too

"You realize that, oh, it's going to come to an end sometime in the next decade. So you start to enjoy or savor the things that before that maybe were irritating to you. They were kind of negatives, but now you realize, you know what, dealing with the media or dealing with the fans or dealing with this or dealing with that, it's gonna come to end, so enjoy it more. You might be saying to yourself, right now people are coming around asking me for autographs and it might be a pain in the ass. But there might be a time when they don't do that. So you try to take a little bit of time and more care with everybody you come across."
-- Matt Bullard

LeBron's Homecoming Essay Read by Cavs Fans

Listen to the fans of Cleveland read LeBron James' essay as he prepares to return to the Cavaliers.

"For sure, when you hit the so-called 'Big 3-0,' it's like, 'OK, at 21 you were a grown man. But now I'm a grown-up' And I think there's a difference. A grown-up means you probably got kids by now, most likely, hopefully, you're married, and you're just at the time in your life where you know where you're going. There's no question mark about what your goals and aspirations are as an individual, professionally and off the court. The future is probably pretty clear to you."
-- Jason Terry

"I've been in the league 17 years and I'm still learning new things every day, so I'd definitely tell him to keep an open mind about everything. Keep learning and evolving as a player and as a person. When you are a player of his stature, you have so many other responsibilities beyond just playing the game, you have to be conscious of keeping everything in its proper perspective as you get older and have a family and add so many other things to your plate. He's done a great job. ... It's all about your perspective as you get older in this game. You have to be smart about how you do things, how you prepare yourself and handle your business. I'd say he's good there."
-- Nazr Mohammed.

Before 30, I was kind of all over the place in knowing what direction I was going to go. But when I hit 30, it was almost like a light came on.

– Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey

"You realize that you love your job, that you're lucky to be doing what you're doing. But you also start to realize that "my kids are getting older. I'm missing a lot of things that other people my age are doing, because you're traveling and working all the time. So you just start to want more free time, to hang with your kids, your wife, to be home doing nothing."
-- Clyde Drexler

"Thirty is the age where you figure out who you are, what you're looking for, what direction you're going. At the time 30 is that age where everyone sees that light and discovers who they are. Time to get serious. It's about the age to start to get serious, but again, I was serious about what I was doing which was coaching at the time. I had the direction. Before 30, I was kind of all over the place in knowing what direction I was going to go. But when I hit 30, it was almost like a light came on. I could see which way I was going. I knew what I want to do in life."
-- Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey

"It depends on the person. Some people can't accept [turning 30]. I was able to still play and compete at a high level. To me, 35 is really the number; where most people feel like it's 30."
-- Memphis Grizzlies guard Vince Carter

How LeBron has changed through the years

LBJ @ 30

As we get closer to LeBron James' 30th birthday on December 30th, here's an exclusive dig through the LBJ archives, for a unique all-access look back at his career.

"We've seen him since he was a teenager and any 18-year-old kid, whether they're famous or not, is going to be an 18-year-old kid. So for him I've been impressed by his maturity. The fact that he's been actively aware, conscious of being more mature and learning about the game and being a student of the game and the history of the game, being a student of game plans, of why we do this and why we do that. I've been very impressed seeing his growth in the mental part of the game. I think he's got an unusual ability to see the game. Not everybody sees it like he does. So to see that growth in him on a bright light stage has been impressive."
-- Matt Bullard

When he's done and they have those discussions years from now, they're going to talk about who was the best to ever play the game. LeBron is always going to be in those discussions.

– Milwaukee Bucks GM John Hammond

"He's learned from all those situations he was in and he's really grown up. He's got three kids now. He's a father. It's amazing what fatherhood does to you."
-- Michael Malone

"I think he'll evolve even more as a human being at 30. He's turned out great so far. He was one of the few guys who had the hype early and lived up to it. He was the best player coming out of high school, the No. 1 pick in the NBA, an All-Star, gold medal winner, MVP, a champion. He got it all and still plans to get more of it. His goal is to be the best to ever play or at least one of the best and he's well on his way. Some might say he's already up there but he won't relax or rest until he gets every bit out of his ability. I think he'll be just as focused at 30 because he won't be satisfied. He wants more, out of basketball and out of life."
-- University of Akron coach Keith Dambrot, who coached LeBron in high school.

"He doesn't need any advice from me. I think he's doing just fine with his own plan. ... The interesting thing for him is how he motivates himself during this part of his career. What does he chase? He's won everything you could possibly win. That's what will set him apart in this next part of his career is what he uses as his carrot now that he has accomplished so much before 30."
-- Dominique Wilkins

What kind of NBA legacy will LeBron leave?

"He's got that love for the game and for working at his craft. I know that about him. So I expect him to keep doing the things he's always done for years to come. It won't be hard for him to keep that fire. He's got a chance to go down as one of the two or three greatest players to ever play this game in the NBA."
-- Los Angeles Clippers shooting guard Jamal Crawford

"You look and see what he's done, not only as a player but as a person and how well he represents this league. When he's done and they have those discussions five years from now, 10 years from now, 50 years from now, they're going to talk about who was the best to ever play the game. LeBron is always going to be in those discussions."
-- John Hammond

"There's championships to be won. If that's the measuring stick by which everyone's measured, then the more you can get the better you're going to be on the greatest of all time ladder. There are going to be things going forward that he can't do because his physical abilities will be diminished. But his mental abilities, understanding the game, I think he'll be able to play well into his late 30s. That's changing his game because as he declines physically he'll still be able to play at a high level because of his intelligence."
-- Matt Bullard

"He means a lot to the league as far as what he represents, how he carries himself, how he approaches the game. His role as a leader. All of that is important to the league. And I think he understands that especially now at age 30. He's more serious, and he carries out his responsibility more seriously.''
-- Dwane Casey

Information from NBA.com staff writers Steve Aschburner, Fran Blinebury, Scott Howard-Cooper, Shaun Powell, John Schuhmann, Sekou Smith, Ian Thomsen and Lang Whitaker was used in compiling this report.