Lebron finds 'big brother' in Hakeem

Discussion in 'NBA Dish' started by SacTown, Jun 11, 2012.

  1. SacTown

    SacTown Member

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    LeBron finds 'big brother' in Hakeem Olajuwon

    http://www.foxsportsflorida.com/03/...Hakeem-Olaju/landing_heat.html?blockID=678080

    Hakeem Olajuwon had never even met LeBron James until 14 months ago. Now, it's as if the two are old friends.

    Olajuwon lives in Jordan during the NBA season, catching James' Heat games whenever he can. But he'll be back in the U.S. for a short visit later this month and will be spend the summer in Houston.

    "I would hug him," the Hall of Famer said when asked how he would greet the future Hall of Famer when he next sees him. "The friendship is real. I'm like a big brother (to James)."

    Olajuwon first met James at a Dec. 29, 2010 Miami at Houston game. James, who entered the NBA in 2003, obviously knew all about Olajuwon's legendary career as a center from 1984-2002, all but his final season spent with the Rockets.

    James had heard about Olajuwon working with Lakers guard Kobe Bryant in 2009. So when the Heat lost the NBA Finals last spring to Dallas, James wanted to do everything he could to improve his game.

    James, a 6-foot-8, 250-pounder who nearly every night has a physical advantage over opposing small forwards, knew he had to improve his post game. And what better place to turn than to Olajuwon, who had perhaps the best post moves of any big man ever to play the game.

    So James, going though mutual acquaintances, arranged to work out with Olajuwon last August at his ranch outside Houston. The master of the "Dream Shake" showed some of his secrets to James during three-hour sessions over four days. Everything was videotaped, enabling James to continue to study what the master taught.

    "The joy to me is that I get to know that I can add significant value to his career," Olajuwon said from Amman, Jordan, where he makes his home most of the year with the exception of some trips back to the U.S. and spending summers in Houston.

    Olajuwon, a native of Nigeria, is a Muslim who lives in Jordan because he enjoys the lifestyle and wants his seven children, ages 2 to 14, to go to school there to become bilingual in both English and Arabic. He catches on television highlights of James and has seen two complete games, a December exhibition against Orlando and the Jan. 29 game in which James had 35 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in a 97-93 win over Chicago.

    For the most part, Olajuwon likes what he's seen. James, averaging 27.7, points, 8.2 rebounds and 6.8 assists while shooting a career-high 54.9 percent, is heading toward a possible third MVP award.

    "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."

    James said he's up for a refresher course with Olajuwon but realizes it could be tough to get in this summer since he'll be playing for Team USA at the Olympics. Frank Rutherford, Olajuwon's workout coordinator, said James recently texted him to see if Olajuwon might be able to provide some pointers on a stop in Miami when he soon visits the U.S. But Olajuwon primarily will be in Houston, where the Heat don't play during this lockout-shortened season, and it remains to be seen if any sort of get-together can be arranged.

    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."

    But Olajuwon only can imagine how good James would be if he fully can hone some of the principles being taught by the big man, who averaged 21.8 points and 11.1 rebounds in his career, is the NBA's all-time leading shot-blocker and who won an MVP and two titles with the Rockets.

    "But the second year, he should be comfortable so that he's dominant inside," Olajuwon said of James using some of his moves. "He can be an animal inside. He has such tremendous talent and such a strong body that he should be punishing people in the post. There should be no answer for him. Just imagine that he's unstoppable know. But can you imagine (how much more unstoppable James could be).

    "He can be in a position where you always have to double or triple-team him in the post. Here's a big guy with the ball handling (skills) of a guard. With all these new tools, he can destroy the league."

    But James didn't exactly feel superhuman after the devastating 4-2 Finals loss his Heat suffered to the Mavericks. Not long after that, James sent out signals he wanted to work out with Olajuwon.

    Helping the arrangement take place was that Maverick Carter, James' business manager, had played at Western Michigan with Reggie Berry, whom Rutherford helped raise in Houston. Rutherford, the 1992 Olympic bronze medalist in the triple jump for the Bahamas, has been very close with Olajuwon since the two both attended the University of Houston in the early 1980s and trained him during the latter part of his NBA career.

    To learn from Olajuwon, James agreed to donate an undisclosed amount to Rutherford's Elite Bahaman Education Program, a charity in which Rutherford brings young athletes from his native land to Houston to attend school with the hope of getting a college scholarship.

    In addition to Bryant, Olajuwon also has worked in 2010 and 2011 with Orlando center Dwight Howard, last year with NBA big men Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez and Marcin Gortat and previously with former Rockets center Yao Ming. Olajuwon said he worked with Howard for free the first time but Howard agreed to pay him for the second set of sessions.

    James' sessions were held on Olajuwon's sprawling ranch in Katy, Texas, about 30 miles west of Houston. In what James called "an unbelievable setting," Olajuwon has turned a barn-like structure that once was used for cattle auctions into a gym.

    "It's something your eyes need to see to appreciate," said Rutherford, who attended the sessions. "You walk inside and there's a big No. 34 (Olajuwon's retired jersey number) on the floor and above the court hangs this big banner that used to hang in the Summit (the arena where Olajuwon played with the Rockets) that says he's the NBA's all-time leading shot blocker. Then on each end there are huge garage doors that he turned into glass so you can see the beauty of the ranch on both ends."

    The workouts were scheduled to begin each day at 9 a.m. While Olajuwon did show up regularly on time, James always was already there, sometimes having arrived by 8:20.

    "He would be there stretched and ready to go," Olajuwon said. "That says a lot about him and his determination. I was impressed that he couldn't wait to get started."

    After all, James considered it a business trip.

    "I went there to put in work," James said. "That's what it's all about. I didn't want to do anything else but to get better."

    Others attending the sessions were former NBA guard Damon Jones, who lives in Houston and provided assistance on the court, four James staff members and several Olajuwon staffers. The workouts were videotaped by representatives for both James and Olajuwon.

    While James' primary motivation was to improve his post game, Olajuwon stressed he also worked with James on other moves. Despite being 7-foot, Olajuwon had the agility to do damage after taking a player outside.

    "He explained to me that after the Finals the disappointment that he had and he wanted to see ways he could improve," Olajuwon said. "It wasn't just working on post moves. It's also to create space, to beat your guy either outside or inside. So we are teaching him how to freeze a guy, how to shoot at the moment he's on the ground and he can't jump. You get him to shift his weight on one leg so he can't jump at that moment.

    "We take those same principles now into the post and then we expand his whole game. The mentality is to beat your guy, create space to shoot over him."

    Rutherford said James was so impressed with what Olajuwon was teaching that sometimes his "eyes would open up and say ‘wow."'

    But Olajuwon is a tough guy to fully please. Watching James play this season, Olajuwon stressed he "still stays outside a lot" and there have been opportunities to take his man into the post "he didn't recognize."

    Still, there were some post moves James against the Bulls that made Olajuwon feel like one proud mentor. He talked about one in which he spun baseline and another in which he created space in the middle of the lane and made a short shot over Chicago's Ronnie Brewer.

    "That is what we call, ‘All Day,' because there is no answer," Olajuwon said of James being able to dominate by going inside against the 6-7, 220-pound Brewer.

    While Olajuwon has worked with plenty of players, he gives them different advice tailored to their abilities and playing style. He likened it to a doctor not providing every patient the same prescription.

    Olajuwon, 49, also talked with James about life. The two had some candid conversations.

    "A lot of people don't open up to you," James said. "Sometimes a lot of people are scared to open up to you, and the fact that we were able to open up to one another in that week's time, was great. It was overwhelming. I'm humbled and blessed that he gave me the opportunity to be with him."


    Olajuwon spoke to James about finances and offered some tips on real estate, another field in which Olajuwon has had much success. And, yes, he talked to the nine-year man about never having won a championship.

    Olajuwon knows all about that kind of pressure. He didn't win a title until his 10th season, finally breaking through in 1994 and then picking up another ring the next year,

    "I think it creates more value when you finally accomplish it," Olajuwon said of having told James about his long wait. "If he can develop his whole game and score at will, the championship will be automatic. It's just a matter of time. He's on the right team. He will have an opportunity to win it all. He's put himself in position where they can go every year and not just win one championship but more."

    If James can continue to expand his game, Olajuwon figures he has the talent to go down as one of the greatest players ever.

    "You want to be not just be a superstar, you want to be a legend that they're always talking about way after your career," Olajuwon said about why he's pushing James so much and welcomes the opportunity to give him a refresher course.

    The big brother became a legend. Now, he's passing on some of his wisdom so his little brother can join him.
     
  2. amaru

    amaru Member

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    good for him.
     
  3. napalm_black

    napalm_black Contributing Member

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    I legitimately enjoyed this story. Cool beans, glad to see James is working seriously on his game and revering Hakeem.



    That being said, suck it heat. Go Thunder.
     
  4. SacTown

    SacTown Member

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    If Hakeem considers Lebron a little brother then Lebron can't be as bad of a guy as you guys make him out to be, right? I would think Hakeem is a pretty good judge of character.
     
  5. meh

    meh Contributing Member

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    If the above piece isn't just PR fluff, then you wonder if Lebron had met Hakeem a few years earlier, would he have stayed in Cleveland and tried to win there? Despite what people say about the lack of talent around Lebron back then, it was actually comparable to our first championship team. Generally the problem with building around a wing player is lack of defense. But those Cleveland teams were top notch defensive teams. And they were good enough to get 60+ wins in the regular season year after year.
     
  6. RV6

    RV6 Contributing Member

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    Don't really think James is a bad guy literally, but Dream could be trying to stay close with him because he sees someone who needs help and guidance and not because James is this awesome person to hang out with.
     
  7. Jamers

    Jamers Member

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    damn, i have hakeem and lebron on my team (my sig).. :grin:
     
  8. TEXNIFICENT

    TEXNIFICENT Member

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    They couldn't get over the hump with that group. Never thought much of Mike Brown as a HC, and he couldn't get the Lakers over the hump either.
     
  9. amaru

    amaru Member

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    I have no idea about LeBron's or Hakeem's character......I don't communicate with either of them.
     
  10. meh

    meh Contributing Member

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    Not sure what your point is. Hakeem couldn't do it with the Rockets for a decade either. Coincidentally, also 1 finals appearance during that span. Then the Rockets drafted Robert Horry and Sam Cassell, traded for Vernon Maxwell and Mario Elie, Rudy T became the head coach.

    Cleveland did clean house the year Lebron became a FA, so your argument regarding Mike Brown doesn't apply here.
     
  11. Dreamin

    Dreamin Member

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    Hakeem is the best. I hope Lebron takes his lessons seriously.
     
  12. Rockets Jones

    Rockets Jones Member

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    Maybe Lebron should come play for the Rockets so he can see his big brother and work out with him more often ;)
     
  13. JMAD21

    JMAD21 Member

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    I wonder if Hakeem tried to convert James to islam... Being a Christian and also a huge LeBron fan, I hope that's not the case.

    Otherwise, Hakeem can do nothing but good for LeBron. Like the article mentioned, Hakeem was really in the same situation LeBron is in. Lost his 1st 2 trips to the finals and had tons of doubters.
     
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  14. BasketballReasons

    BasketballReasons Contributing Member

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    Didn't Dwight work-out with Hakeem as well?

    I see a pattern here.

    [​IMG]
     
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  15. JayGoogle

    JayGoogle Member

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    Yep another Rocket thing to take from this story.

    Dwight if you want to get better you need to come to Houston, that way you and Hakeem can work out everytime he comes back :p
     
  16. kubli9

    kubli9 Contributing Member

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    This actually makes me dislike Lebron less, he could learn a thing or two from Hakeem what it means to be humble.
     
  17. skyline07

    skyline07 Member

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    everyone comes to Houston to train but no one wants to actually play here.............I guess Houston is basically considered to be boot camp, a place you never want to return to.
     
  18. sammy

    sammy Contributing Member

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    Mind = Blown for Rockets fans slash Lebron haters.
     
  19. SacTown

    SacTown Member

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    The Lebron haters are getting fewer and fewer around here, he's winning people over. Which is nice to see because he doesn't deserve all this ridicule.
     
  20. Jamers

    Jamers Member

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    i still don't want him to win a championship this year because of "The Decision".. Maybe next year it will be the other way around :p
     

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