Paul Silas, former NBA player and LeBron James’ 1st NBA coach, dies

The basketball world pays tribute to a legend
Paul Silas, former NBA player and LeBron James' 1st NBA coach, dies
Photo credit: Shutterstock.com / taka1022

Former NBA player and coach Paul Silas has died, longtime sports columnist and author Bob Ryan reported on Dec. 11. He was 79.

Silas played 16 NBA seasons for the St. Louis Hawks, Atlanta Hawks, Phoenix Suns, Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets and Seattle Supersonics from 1964-1980. He played at least 77 of the season’s 82 games in all but one year of his career. He averaged double-digit rebounding for over half of his career and eight seasons. Silas made the NBA All-Star Game in 1972 and 1975.


As a coach, Silas led benches for 12 seasons, he also coached the San Diego Clippers, Charlotte Hornets, New Orleans Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers and Charlotte Bobcats.

In Cleveland, he was the first man to coach an 18-year-old phenomenon named LeBron James in 2003. Silas put the ball in James’ hands as a rookie and had the 2003 No. 1 pick running “point forward,” which essentially meant the six-foot-nine athlete would bring up the ball most possessions like a point guard – typically much shorter – would. Silas said he made the decision because, in order for James’ teams to win in the future, he’d have to work hard and lead them to victory. Fast forward 20 years later, with four NBA championships and an unprecedented streak of 10-straight NBA Finals appearances, and there’s no denying James’ impact on winning while playing the role of “point forward.”


In 2016, Silas said James was the greatest basketball player ever.

Silas was known as an old-school, hard-nosed coach. After one game in Atlanta during James’ rookie year, reports came out Silas had a shouting match with team guard Ira Newble.

Silas is the father of current Houston Rockets’ coach Stephen Silas.

As the news spread on the morning of Dec. 11, the online tributes poured in.

“Former Bobcats head coach, good friend to Michael Jordan and strong supporter of the Hornets in recent years,” Hornets reporter James Plowright tweeted. “RIP Paul Silas, always enjoyed seeing him on the telecast from time to time.”

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