LeBron James

Michael Jordan, LeBron James

Shaq would take Jordan over LeBron in hypothetical one-on-one matchup

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Ask Michael Jordan, and he’ll say at his peak “no question” he could beat LeBron James in a game of one-on-one.

Ask LeBron and he will bet on himself.

If either of those answers feels like a surprise, then you were probably caught off guard by the ending of the movie “Titanic.”

What we need is a neutral third party to weigh in on this meaningless debate… how about Shaquille O’Neal? Is there a better arbiter of the ludicrous? Shaq was in France eating butter-laden foods and was asked about the hypothetical matchup, as reported by the Agence France-Presse (hat tip Dan Devine of Ball Don’t Lie):

O’Neal, visiting Hong Kong to promote an energy drink, faced both Jordan and James in their prime and when asked who would win a hypothetical match-up, he didn’t hesitate.

“Mike,” said O’Neal, winner of four NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers (2000-2002) and the Miami Heat (2006). “I think you have to go with a young Jordan every time.” […]

“It would be an interesting game,” said O’Neal. “Young LeBron was more like (Lakers Hall of Famer) Magic Johnson. He was sort of like Magic with Jordan’s abilities. He liked to pass, and he liked to get it up.

“But Mike was Mike. He was just special, like no one else. He always did things no one else could do, and things you couldn’t compare to anyone else. So he was special, and he’d win.”

What both men do well, but Jordan did better than anyone, is hit difficult, contested shots. Sort of like Stephen Curry of late, Jordan was a guy who made bad shots look good. LeBron would be a bull that even Jordan would struggle to stop.

It would be fun to see. After that, just beat each other up in the comments over who would win, because everyones’ opinions matter as much as Shaq’s.

Al Horford waiting until next summer to discuss contract situation

Al Horford
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As the Hawks try to replicate the success of last year’s 60-win campaign, they will have one major question mark hanging over their heads: Al Horford’s impending free agency. Obviously, the marquee free agent next summer will be Kevin Durant, and he will be the object of the biggest free-agency frenzy since LeBron James in 2010. But Horford will be arguably the second-best player on the market, and coming off a bargain five-year, $60 million deal as the salary cap explodes, he’s going to get paid.

Throughout the season, there will be plenty of speculation about Horford’s future, in Atlanta or elsewhere. But one person who will not be participating in that talk is the Dominican big man himself, according to Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Horford’s free agency talk isn’t going to go away, but with the Hawks looking to be an Eastern Conference contender again, it’s smart of him to nip the speculation early. He may stay with the Hawks and he may not. Either way, he’s going to command a max contract as one of the best and most versatile centers in the NBA at both ends of the floor. It’s a good bet that Atlanta will be aggressive in their effort to keep him. With a good core and coaching staff in place, they have to be considered the clubhouse leaders at this point to sign Horford. But he’ll have no shortage of suitors around the league.

Report: Cavaliers offering J.R. Smith less than his player option would have paid

2015 NBA Finals - Game Six
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J.R. Smith declined his $6,399,750 player option in search of a better contract.

He hasn’t found one yet.

Unsurprisingly, he probably can’t even break even.

Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com:

The Cavs have made him an offer. I hear it’s less than $6.4 million that he turned down.

The Cavaliers’ top priority, as decreed by LeBron James, is re-signing Tristan Thompson. But re-signing Smith would also help Cleveland. His 3-point shooting is particularly valuable given the open looks LeBron, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love create by drawing so much attention.

If the Cavaliers don’t keep Smith, they could offer only a minimum salary (or a smidge more to a player with fewer than eight years of experience) for a replacement. That’s not going to net a shooter as good as Smith, unless Ray Allen comes out of retirement.

So, Smith has a little leverage.

But Cleveland has much more.

Only the 76ers and Trail Blazers can offer Smith at least $6.4 million. I doubt either rebuilding team would.

The Cavaliers, armed with the Brendan Haywood trade exception, could trade for a replacement. Jamal Crawford is reportedly on their radar. They might have higher hopes with that exception, but a trade is a suitable fallback option.

One question the Cavaliers must ask themselves: Do they want to retain Smith for the lowest possible amount, or would they prefer to keep him happy? Smith has a history of sulking when things go poorly. Matching his player-option salary would allow him to save face. That might be worth the extra money (and luxury-tax payments).

Right now, though, Cleveland clearly doesn’t think so.

LeBron James sets up college scholarship program for at-risk Akron youth

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LeBron James was once an at-risk youth growing up in Akron, Ohio. However, he had options to change his life’s course thanks to his physical gifts and skills as a basketball player.

Now he’s helping give youth growing up on those same streets some options.

LeBron teamed up with the University of Akron to set up potential college scholarships for approximately 1,000 young people in the Akron public school system working with James’ foundations’ “I Promise” program (and other programs).

He announced it this week, reports the Associated Press.

“It’s the reason I do what I do,” said James, who announced the program Thursday while hosting an event for students at Cedar Point Amusement Park. “These students have big dreams, and I’m happy to do everything I can to help them get there. They’re going to have to earn it, but I’m excited to see what these kids can accomplish knowing that college is in their futures.”

The school and the LeBron James Family Foundation are still finalizing the criteria for the scholarships. The students will have to graduate high school within Akron’s public school system and achieve standard testing requirements as well as fulfill a community service obligation….

“It means so much because, as a kid growing up in the inner city and a lot of African-American kids, you don’t really think past high school,” said James, who bypassed college to jump to the NBA. “You don’t really know your future. You hear high school all the time, and you graduate high school and then you never think past that because either it’s not possible or your family’s not financially stable to even be able to support a kid going to college.”

James’ foundation is focused on trying to raise the graduation rate in Akron. It has programs for mentoring and tutoring at-risk youth in danger of falling out of school (due to issues in their homes, attendance concerns or a host of other reasons). The foundation was setting a path to graduation; now there is potentially a next step after it.

The university will pay for the scholarships (currently valued at $9,500 a year), LeBron’s foundation will set the path to get those scholarships and work to keep the youth in the program on that path, which starts with the class of 2021.

Who knows how many of the youth will take advantage of this opportunity, but LeBron and the university are going to change some lives. LeBron is playing for his legacy on the court at this point in his career, but he is shaping one off the court in Akron as well that is very impressive.

LeBron James says he’d beat Michael Jordan 1-on-1 in their primes

Michael Jordan, LeBron James
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Michael Jordan said “no question” he’d beat LeBron James 1-on-1 if both were in their primes.

LeBron has avoided directly addressing the debate.

Until now.

LeBron on the Today show:

I take myself. For sure. I mean, I’m going to take myself versus anybody. I’ll tell you one thing: They’re going to have to have a few wheelchairs and a couple ambulance there to get us off the floor.

I’d give Jordan the edge. Though I think both players reached very similar levels in their primes, one of LeBron’s biggest advantages over Jordan – passing –  is irrelevant in 1-on-1. Jordan is a superior individual scorer and better defender, though LeBron’s size would pose problems.