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Tuesday, September 30, 2014
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Published: Friday, 1/28/2005

James even better than advertised

The best that ever was?

No, our expectations weren't too high for LeBron James.

Yes, he's only 20, and his next playoff game will be his first.

But No. 23 playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers already has the game, the name and the fame to put today's watered-down NBA to shame.

Daring to be great, he already is.

Wednesday, during Cleveland's 114-111 victory over Memphis at Gund Arena, as he does in every Cavaliers game, James did it all.

He knocked down jumpers, drove the lane, crashed the boards, delivered the ball to open teammates and defended.

Scoring in every way imaginable, James lit up Memphis for 27 points, nine rebounds, 15 assists, three steals and two blocks in 42 hair-raising minutes.

He even went Michael Jordan on the Grizzlies when he ignited a second-half Cleveland run that turned a five-point deficit into a 10-point lead after being taunted by an opponent.

Jordan became famous for using the words and actions of opponents for motivation. Woe to the player stupid enough to take on MJ.

James followed suit after a dunk and verbal challenge from Memphis guard Dahntay Jones.

James scored the first five points of the fourth quarter, then left the game because of a sprained ankle. James missed about four minutes to have the ankle re-taped, but returned to lead the Cavaliers the way Jordan always led the Bulls.

Give James credit. He's handling the pressure and expectations of being the Chosen One a lot better than anyone anticipated.

Look at Carmelo Anthony, who entered the league with James and was expected to challenge LeBron for the right to become the NBA's "Next Great Player."

Well, not only has Melo's public image gone to pot (I can't believe I wrote that), James has separated himself from Anthony on the court and evolved into a legitimate MVP candidate in his second season.

James is sixth in the league in scoring at 25 points a game. He's also fourth in assists (7.6), second in steals (2.39) and fourth in minutes per game (41.2).

Inconsistent outside shooting was supposed to be the knock on James. James is now shooting 49.7 percent from the field (up from 41.7 percent a year ago) and 37.3 percent on 3-pointers (up from 29 percent).

One of three rookies in NBA history to average at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists, James is entering rarified air space.

James posted his first two NBA triple-doubles in a span of three days on a recent road trip, recalling the legendary Oscar Robertson. Robertson was a triple-double machine.

Robertson is the only NBA player to average a triple-double for an entire season (30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists in 1961-62). Lesser known is the fact that Robertson just missed averaging a triple-double two years later (31.4 points, 9.9 rebounds and 11 assists). In fact, Robertson averaged a triple-double his first five seasons in the league (30.2 points, 10.3 rebounds and 10.6 assists).

James' points, assists and rebounds are going up. He's averaging four points, two rebounds and nearly two assists more than he did a year ago.

Age-wise, James is a college sophomore. The best 20-year-old in NBA history is making a run at becoming among the best ever.



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