In his 35 years of coaching at the international level, Mike Krzyzewski has seen elite talent. And of all the players he’s coached and coached against, Coach K doesn’t shy away from saying LeBron James is the best basketball player on the planet.

Krzyzewski tells the Miami Heat superstar on this week’s Basketball and Beyond with Coach K, airing Thursday at 6 pm ET on SiriusXM College Sports Nation, that James is the real deal, and not just on offense.

“There’s never a time that I see you play, that you’re not ready to play,” Krzyzewski told James.

Coach K asked James about his evolving defensive play, and when James realized it was an important part of the game.

My first two years I didn’t make the playoffs, my third year in the NBA I was able to get to the second round and as the years went on I started to see more and more the defense was the reason you were winning games. I understood, in order for my team […] to be successful, I had to be the best defender on the floor. I had to take the challenge of the best perimeter player or even some of the best bigs at the time, in order for us to win. Today I take that side of the floor way more importantly than the offensive side. The offense comes easy.

Krzyzewski, who coached James to the last two Olympic gold medals as part of the U.S. Men’s National team, said he has always noticed James’ on-court leadership and ability to work with other players.

“I like it because [you have] a strong voice,” Krzyzewski told James. “It can be heard but then you’re doing everything that you’re asking your teammates to do. I think it’s the single most important element that you have. Because it takes your talents and it combines them with everyone else’s and everyone believes and trusts you.”

James said of his leadership:

My voice, knowing that my voice commands a lot, I’ve learned that in the last few years. It’s been the best thing not only for myself but for my teammates and the coaching staffs I love to play for. I just try to use that for the best of one thing and one common goal and that’s to win.”

Coach K takes to the airwaves Thursdays at 6 pm ET throughout the college basketball season on SiriusXM College Sports Nation. Basketball and Beyond with Coach K, co-hosted by Dave Sims, is in its ninth season, and is available live on Ch. 91, on the SiriusXM app and on SiriusXM On Demand.

For a free 30-day trial, click here.

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