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Friday, March 2nd, 2012 at 9:00 am  |  75 responses

Hakeem Olajuwon: LeBron James Has Room for Improvement


by Marcel Mutoni @marcel_mutoni

LeBron James appears to be cruising to his third MVP, while putting together what is arguably the greatest season of his illustrious career (averages of 27.7 points, 8.2 boards, 6.8 assists and shooting an absurd 54.9% from the field.)

Though impressed by the play of James like everyone else, Hakeem Olajuwon thinks LeBron is only beginning to scratch the surface of his potential.

Hakeem trained with LeBron last summer, as the two worked on improving LBJ’s postgame, and he feels that the Miami Heat superstar can reach an even higher level of performance with some seasoning.

From Fox Sports:

“He’s doing fantastic,” Olajuwon said. “He should (win MVP), no question about it. The statistics speak for themselves.” But Olajuwon still believes James, 27, is just scratching the surface. With some further work, he anticipates James will be even better. “I knew he recorded everything we worked on,” Olajuwon said. “I know he’s practiced it. I can see that. But the comfort level, when you get into the competition, you start playing to your strengths, which is more of (an) outside (game). I see him post up. But I still see a lot of opportunities there. He’s not capitalizing as much as he should. He needs more of a refresher course where he can become more comfortable. I see him (improving his post game), but he needs more time.”

For now, James said he’s quite content with what he has learned from Olajuwon. “It’s helped me a lot,” James said. “I’m more comfortable. I’m more comfortable down there late in games. I can go down there and I know I can get a bucket or a foul and I know I’m going to get a good look. It’s more of a high-percentage shot than being out on the perimeter at times. And that’s part of the reason why my percentages have gone up. Free throws have gone up (from last season). And that’s part of the reason I’m shooting my best three-point (percentage of his career at 43.1). Because I feel more comfortable in the post, I’m not taking as many threes. I got a lot of insight from Hakeem.”

Scheduling conflicts may prevent it from taking place, but LeBron James says he is up for more post lessons from Hakeem Olajuwon.

The best player in the game hasn’t even reached his full potential yet, and he’s willing to to learn from others on how to get there. Needless to say, that’s very bad news for the rest of the NBA.

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  • Bravo

    Agree

  • Paul H

    That was a Magic-esque performance last night. Unbelievable. I know It’s been said before but, not taking anything away from dream, I do think he Is given a little bit too much of a yoda like credit for his work on helping superstars like Kobe and Lebron develop their post games. I’m sure It helped, he no doubt has a lot to say, but surely their individual work ethics and desire have more to do with It?

  • Justin G.

    How can he be given too much credit when the credit is coming from the people he helped? If Lebron, Kobe, and Dwight are all saying Hakeen has helped them immensely than who is anyone to question it?

  • T-Money

    Dream gave him a comfort zone with his back to the basket. That’s invaluable.

  • Paul H

    I can. Diplomacy is not just for politicians. I am not saying that he didn’t help, just that the level of change Is more to do with the work ethics of the players. I mean how long did he work out with him, a few weeks? I’m not criticizing Dream I just think It can be overblown a little bit.

  • Justin G.

    I guess you can question it all you want. You’d just be wrong in doing so

  • http://www.slamonline.com Nick The Quick

    @Justin G You do know that some folks here are credit adjustors, right? They determine the right amount of credit given to an expert in a certain field teaching a student. It can never be too high or too low. SVG and Paul H come to mind.

  • Da-Meat-Hook

    I think Dream helped them a lot. But Paul H is right in that Kobe, Lebron, and Dwight wouldn’t say “it was a waste of time” if the 3 didn’t learn a thing. Bron was an absolute BEAST last night. I agree with the Magic comparisons, but you simultaneously have to throw in Pippen-like ball-hawking on defensive, which is insane!

  • Paul H

    We can agree to disagree. Dream is a legend, top ten all time and undoubtedly someone whose advice should be sought out on developing a post game. But you can’t turn someone Into a real and versatile low post threat (like what we are seeing from Lebron this season) If they don’t already have the talent and desire to develop It. And certainly not In just a few weeks. Didn’t he work out with Dwight In the summer of 2010? There were no miraculous changes there right? Maybe the difference Is that Lebron had the sheer talent and worked his a*s off all off season long, In ADDITION to the wisdom Dream imparted. (And I was not trying to get at Dwight with that comment, I know his post game has improved since he came to the league.)

  • T-Money

    Paul: the biggest change in Bron’s post game this year is that he goes there more often. People that have been following him for years have seen the turnarounds and the drop steps since the Cleveland days. That’s Dream’s contribution: getting Bron to spend more time down there – not any specific move.

  • Paul H

    And consistently getting himself In the positions to be effective down low would be a reflection of the work he has done. It just irks me when I don’t see the players get the credit they deserve, Bron has clearly been working on his post game for a long time. I take your point tho.

  • Rainman

    In other obvious news, Kim Kardashian is still hot..

  • burnt_chicken

    so what you are saying, Paul, is that coaches cant really take any credit for players who want to become better, because when said players become better, well, they already wanted to? Interesting! So I guess it stands to reason, then, that coaches can only take credit for improving players with no talent who don’t have the will to get better. Meaning Saunders/Wittman and Silas are the only true candidates for Coach of the Year. Whoa. (Apologies to Wall and Crash).

  • http://www.reverbnation.com/tray24 T-Ray

    I think Paul’s main point is that Dream is praised almost more than the actual player. Don’t get me wrong his teachings are a benefit but what good are those teachings if the player is not willing to constantly work at it? I just think that both sides should be given credit especially when that player shows flashes of what he learned during the season/post season.

  • Paul H

    I was saying that If It was that easy, just work out with a legend for a week and shazaam you magically unearth a previously unseen ability, It would make hard work and coaching redundant. Coaches work out with players every day over years, of course coaching matters. As does players working hard every day themselves. It’s not all or nothing. Bi-polar this site sometimes.

  • Paul H

    Thats It T-ray

  • http://www.reverbnation.com/tray24 T-Ray

    Paul
    It was frustrating seeing you have to explain yourself when your concept isn’t that difficult to grasp lol

  • Paul H

    I actually was so worked up I had to correct about 5 spelling mistakes on my last post. Was typing so fast I thought my laptop was going to melt lol

  • http://www.reverbnation.com/tray24 T-Ray

    Haha this site and some commenters will make you do that sometimes

  • burnt_chicken

    I didn’t mean to get you worked up, Paul. I know what you meant- just wanted to misunderstand/stretch your words in order to write ‘Saunders’ and ‘coach of the year’ in the same post. Sorry for any undue stress I may have caused.

  • bike

    Okay Lakeshow…here it comes….
    You know what I am about to write….
    I can’t help myself….
    LeBron has the potential to be the G.O.A.T.

  • Da-Meat-Hook

    @ burnt_chicken, your initial post got me pretty heated as well. I’m actually teaching a class right now and my students are wondering why I’m refusing to answer any of their questions. You’re second post cleared things up, though . . . all is well again.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    That was an impressive performance last night, and it was made even more impressive by the fact that he was going against Gerald Wallace and Batum, who both defend like madmen. I remember one catch against Matthews where he just punked him. Not like Matthews was soft, but like LeBron said “You’re a little boy and I”m a grown man.” Those types of possessions are demoralizing and the more of them he has, the more dangerous the Heat become.
    I think T-Money is right though. Bron hasn’t shown in amazing moves, just more of a desire to post. And, like Dream, I think he could be posting up even more.
    The really amazing thing is how NOBODY says that he and Wade can’t co-exist anymore. NOBODY. that was the dominant storyline before The Decision, and all of last year. Now people easily agree they have the best chemistry in the League. That’s a credit to both of them and to their coach for figuring it out.

  • http://www.reverbnation.com/tray24 T-Ray

    Allenp
    I swear if you call me T-Money again lol just messing it’s Friday and I’m going to the studio can’t be mad today!

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    I was talking about T_Money, I know your name is T-Ray. Check his comment at 9:45 a.m. for what I was referencing. He has been telling folks that LeBron has post moves for about two years now.

  • http://www.reverbnation.com/tray24 T-Ray

    I knew that lol I totally forgot he commented my mistake for my false rage

  • Da-Meat-Hook

    I don’t remember the details, but, didn’t Bynum refuse further instruction/tutelage from Kareem at some point?

  • http://www.slamonline.com Jahmai

    Really cool picture.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    I don’t understand how people thought saying Wade and LeBron can’t coexist was an accurate assessment. Neither one of those guys is selfish enough for that too have been a long term problem.

  • AD

    lebron will win a ring this year… the thunder just dnt have click in the halfcourt, the clippers can’t defend and every other contender is either too old or just too young.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cheryl

    I’m glad to finally see a positive post for the young guy. It’s been a long time.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    The Thunder don’t click because their coach runs now offensive sets as I’ve been saying for quite sometime.
    It’s all pick and roll and isolation. Basically Miami’s offense from last year. Lol.

  • ShaneFM

    To Bike:
    The Lakeshow is not who you should be concerned about…it’s the Bulls and Michael Jordan your offending!! Lebron GOAT? Awww helll no! We can all agree here that Lebron is amazing…as he should be given his talent and athletic build. It’s about damn time actually. But to claim GOAT? You sir are delusional and simply a fanboy of epic proportions!! Until Lebron can accomplish more than statistical “Oooh-La-La” moments…he will NEVER be the GOAT! Let’s see what happens if and when he gets a serious injury. Everytime Bron Bron has been out it’s been over some minor things. (smh) This is the GOAT? Don’t make me laugh.

  • AQWORD

    Cosign nbk. + Everybody has room for impovement.

  • jimmer

    Ha ha, it’s not about how long they work together, It’s about what Hakeem tells ‘em. It also matters that it’s Hakeem who says it. You think these guys listen to just anyone? That said, you gotta understand what you’re being told, and put the work in after, so defo a two-way straight. Pretty shiny traffic, mind. Also, as a way of capturing the sum total Lebron James’ career achievements thus far, the term ‘statistical Ooh-la-la moments’ is gratifyingly accurate. Might change this year though. Might.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    The other great thing that no one talks about is that Wade has also become a monster on the low block. The guy abuses every SG regardless of size/length on the block because of his tenacity and quickness down there. The guy has to be the most underrated post player in the L because everyone likes to talk about Melo, Bron and KB’s post games (rightfully so) but Wade is right up there with those cats.

  • bike

    To Shane. I said potential. I never said he is the GOAT. He may never reach that pinnacle—he seems to be short on the competitive drive that MJ had—but name any player in history with his combination of basketball skills, size, and athletic ability. Statistically speaking at this point in his career he is defiantly in the mix with the all time greats. So we wait and see.
    That is all.

  • Kadavour

    agreed JTaylor. Wade is better with his back to the basket than Bron. He’s getting up there with some of the better back to the basket guards in the L. Dudes like Andre Miller and Kobe.

  • Sam

    Why does one guy or the other have to get the credit?

    Basketball is a team game and Lebron working with Hakeem is a team effort.

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    Bron is that dude. I only watched highlights, but whatever the guys a freak. I’m maybe with whoever is calling LeBron the most complete player maybe ever. I don’t think that equals GOAT like some do, but I don’t think there has ever been anyone with his skill sets on both sides of the floor. Amazing, amazing, player. His post game has improved allot. I don’t know what ya’ll are talking about. He use to bully ball in the post. Now he actually uses fakes, has a decent hook shot, and has a fantastic drop step. He had those things in very limited versions before, but his post game is by far the best it’s ever been. Can’t believe this dude is averaging 55% FG shooting after the AllStar game.

  • LA Huey

    So aside from refining his postgame and off-the-ball movement, what’s there left for this guy to improve? (Let’s leave the “clutch” topic out of this discussion for now)

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    You can’t leave that out. That’s the most glaring obvious problem. If he didn’t have that problem, no one would care about the other ones.

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    LA, if were leaving out ‘Clutchness’ and ‘Killer Mentality’ then there is nothing that Bron really needs to improve on… Nothing lol.

  • LA Huey

    I know that’s the most obvious issue, but we’ve killed that discussion. Just like I’d like to know who people think the best PG in the league is but excluding Rose and Chris Paul from the discussion.

  • LA Huey

    Well, if “clutch” and “killer instinct” is the consensus, then that’s fine. I still think his off-ball movement leaves a lot to be desired but is it fair to chalk it up to the fact you can’t always be in the highest gear?

  • http://www.slamonline.com Nick Tha Quick

    @ AllenP That play where he posted up Matthews on the left block was pretty funny. He caught it just outside the lane, backed him down with 2 dribbles, drop step and was at the rim. Matthews tried to reach around – too late/pointless – so he did what everyone else does when they get beat. Turned to the ref and yelled “Travel”. Ref just shook his head and smiled. Nothing fancy just hella effective.

  • T-Money

    i feel like throwing up every time i hear things like killer mentality.

  • http://www.nba.com Red

    Paul you’re an idiot Lebron has been able to post up, you’re saying he put the work in, well duh was Hakeem supposed to do it for him? Hakeem taught him something and of course Lebron had to work on it. That’s the stupidest thing ever, common sense failed here.

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    I’ll bet you do T-Money. Just like I cringe when someone brings up FG% with Kobe. It’s hard to defend Bron and Kobe on those subjects.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    Hakeem is right when he stated that LeBron still plays outside a lot and there have been countless opportunities this season to post up that he didn’t recognize. I think there should be a 35/65 mix of posting up and playing on the perimeter with LeBron, right now he’s around 20/80.

  • Da-Meat-Hook

    @ Red, I think you’re missing his point. Actually, I know you missed his point.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    T-Money
    You are the most strident LeBron fan here and the most consistent.
    In your honest opinion, you don’t feel like LeBron has displayed some very curious and offputting behavior in big moments throughout his careers? I just want to be clear on whether you think this actually happens, or whether you just don’t like that term.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Nick the Quick
    I actually yelled out “Hell yeah boy, that’s how you get big” when he did that to Matthews. That’s how he should punk any little person who ever, ever tries to match up with him. Anytime there is a switch, or anything that results in a thinner or weaker person on him, he should just straight bully them. That is grown man ball.

  • JHOUSTON34

    He can work with Hakeem all day he stil has to produce in the key games. He just doesn’t have the “Heart of a Champion” as Hakeem and others have. When he gets that then Lebron will max out his potential.

  • robb

    don’t call it having a killer mentality then, call it being able to finish the job

  • BostonBaller

    Unless you have worked on your game from someone who played the game at a high level and actually took it serious then you have no idea how valuable that time can be..even if it is ONLY a week or so. You can improve a lot just by studying a great players moves on film so imagine how much an already all star can gain from working with a true legend first hand. LBJ is a beast but yes he has room for improvement and yes a refresher every so often would only elevate his game. IMO

  • http://slamonline.com datkid

    personally tho lakeshow… kobe’s terrible fg% is completely under his control sort of.. he could def. take better/less shots. Bron’s clutchness… or lack of it isn’t necessarily.

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    Good call datkid. Not Bron’s fault he isn’t clutch…

  • http://www.kb24.com The Seed

    Who cares about Lebron, he is playing with a top 3 player and a top 15 player. His lack of improvement is covered up by his great teammates. BOOK IT!!

  • Drig

    datkid…..true. It’s not like Kobe can’t get 50%. It’s simply two things :

    1. He can’t play in the post as much as he’d like with both Bynum and Pau out there. When Pau was injured at the start of the 2nd title run, Kobe was around 51% for the first 8-10 games before Pau came back and Kobe was forced out onto the perimeter. This is usually the case 75% of the time.

    2. Kobe simply starts gunning. 25% of the time. This from a Kobe fan. He doesn’t need to do it. But doing it is part of what makes rooting for him so fun :P

    Personally though, I prefer the MaskedMamba style of play. Controlled. With a small dash of OMG shots (1-2) per game. Still wanna see those TOs down though. It’s a pity he can’t stay healthy to save his life :\.

    LBJ though…….really needs to start asserting himself at the end of games. With regards to his improvements, Bron still needs to work a bit on his footwork. It’s improved but I still see a lot of potential there. Also improve his 3pt ball. I know he hasn’t been taking many ( and that’s a good thing. Kudos to him for realizing that. Now, Kobe…… ) but I think that’s actually skewing his 3-ball % more than what is truthful. Minor gripe though. He’s been stellar on D so far and his O’s been dynamite.

  • http://slamonline house

    I see Lebron chose not to take a potential game winning shot vs Utah tonite and instead gave the opportunity via assist to……. Haslem?????? (who had 4 points for the game).

  • Drig

    @house……..it was a good play. The problem I have with it is that LBJ could’ve taken the one guy defending him to the rim and go for the and 1…….understandable decision. Feel bad for him though.

  • http://www.nba.com Red

    he’s good doooe.

  • guahan

    they look the same age

  • http://nonstopsports1.blogspot.com/ LaKid

    Man, Lebron doesn’t make it easy for himself, I have to say that. Passing up that shot last night is sure to bring a freakin’ storm of hate. We just put up a post about it (link in the name).. bring some love if you have it, because I’m sure there will be some haters.

  • toinefan88

    This is great! Exactly what he needs. He could be so unstoppable if he was nice in the post. It’d be unfair. MJ used to torture ppl on the block. This is James biggest weakness which could be a tremendous strength when he gets the footwork down from Dream.

  • IamYou

    The real question is.. Is lebron cursed? he passed the ball not taking the shot we hate him? take the shot he missed we hate him? still take the shot it went in still we talk about him cause he’s got no ring? And even if he wins a chanpionship game will we still criticize him cause he got wade on his back? yeah haters wanna hate.. and we “FANS” love this, without haters game will be a bore so thank you haters.

  • http://Slamonline.com Mars

    Best player in the league still got room to grow. Scary. LeBron just can’t win with all the haters. Real leaders have faith in their teammates. LeBron is too unselfish. Who cares, that’s the worse thing you can say about him? Weird.

  • http://slamonline BossTerry

    LeBron doesn’t have the “killer instinct” to put the game away. If his team is down by 2, he would rather make the assist than take the “big shot”. We saw this in the all star game, 2nd to last play, he passses to D. Williams for an open 3. Then last play inbounding the ball from out of bounds (If you re watch the video you can even see Kobe looking at him saying- C’mon man!) I like Bron, but it seems he doesn’t want the pressure to hit (or miss) the game-winners.

  • Tim

    I`ve seen the improvement sine the dream has worked with these 3. Kobe became a killer 2 years a go on the block. I seen Howards Offense get better, and he should still work with him, Lebron has a nice post fadeaway and some jukes and better post passing. Hakeem was a special player though and I don`t think you can teach what made that. Maybe if one of these dudes gets a quadruple double.

  • BrackMamba

    what he needs is confidence now. i personally am a kobe fan and dont care for lebron, but lebron is just hurting himself by passing the ball at the last second and not taking the last shot. He is scared that he is going to miss it.

  • http://www.t-mac.com/tmac/index unf*ckwitable

    Been in the league 8 or 9 years and he is only starting to scratch the surface? dude needs to start working out with Kobe lol seriously with his post game now LBJ is a beast, the only way to stop him now is wind down the clock to 10 seconds left in the fourth and tell him the game is on the line.

  • TP

    There are only about 3 people in the world who can say “LeBron James Has Room for Improvement” and be taken seriously. Dream is one of them.

  • Biggie

    It’s good everything he’s learned from Hakeem. But I still feel like lebron is lacking confidence to take that last shot

  • Kim Cai

    Kobe, Dwight and Lebron are the top notch players and are most likely to be in hall of fame some day. They are the “experts” in the game. What they need is the mental side. However they put their ego aside to learn from the “legend” Olajuwon. We don’t know exactly the what they discussed, and how they can affects their game. One can be sure that Olajuwon can definitely teach them the mental and leadership of the game. While Olajuwon is not the best player in the history, he is perhaps the most honorable ambassador of the game.

    If you disagree with me then send a email to Kevin Smith, Charles Barkley or Will Walton to ask. They are known to speak the way it is.

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