The Washington Times - May 7, 2008, 04:04PM

\ I hate to be a hater, really I do. And this isn’t taking up some bitterness on the part of the Wizards, who had their season ended by Cleveland for a third straight year. But seriously, LeBron James is not all that.\ \ \ Spectacular athlete, great scorer, yes. But not even close to being the best player in the NBA. That’s Kobe Bryant with Chris Paul making a strong case for himself.\ \ \ LBJ simply isn’t well-rounded enough to own that title. I started noticing this back in March. We were inside the Wizards locker room before a game and someone asked Gilbert Arenas who he would rather have, Kobe or LeBron. Agent Zero didn’t even hesitate. Kobe. People were surprised and started asking why he had made up his mind so quickly and he said, “What, watch, all LeBron does is this:” \ \ \ He stood up, dribbled between his legs in front of an imaginary opponent. \ \ \ “He watches to see which way you’re going to make him go and then,” and then pretended to drive to the hole. “Kobe can do so much more,” Gil said.\ \ \ Mind you, Gil wasn’t speaking out of bitterness. This was before the whole war of words between DeShawn Stevenson and LeBron started. And Gil and Bron are friends. They exchanged shakes and hugs throughout the whole series the last two weeks.\ \ But either way, when I first heard Arenas’ assessment, I thought it was a bit of an exaggeration, and maybe it is a tiny bit. But every time I saw LeBron on TV and then in the six games live against he Wizards, I saw Agent Zero is onto something. Seriously, you can sum up LeBron’s game as a powerful driver. It’s amazing that a 6-foot-9, 260-pound man can be as fast and explosive as he is. But THE best? No.\ \ \ You watch LeBron and his drives and dunks are like “Wow, that’s crazy.” But that’s about it. You watch Kobe and you’re like “Wow, that dunk! OOOOOOH did you see that take? Daaaang, what a dagger. What a pass!” And Kobe has this cold, on-the-prowl assailant mode he goes in. LeBron can go on some tears, but that nastiness isn’t there. Not when he’s flopping around and forever trying to sell fouls to the referees.\ \ \ So, he has to do two things before he can be considered THE best in the game.\ \ \ 1. He needs to work on his jump shot. The Wizards were able to do it only in short stretches, but the Celtics showed last night that if you make James be a jump-shooter, he’ll throw up brick after brick. In the Cavs’ 76-72 loss to the Celtics last night, LeBron was only 2-for-18. Two-for-EIGHTEEN? Really? That’s embarrassing. Now, he will probably have about 20 games like that the rest of his career, but still. That’s the key. Make him jump and — for now — he’s a chump.\ \ \ 2. He needs to work on his toughness. I know you’ve got to do a bit of acting to get calls, but come on! In the Boston game last night, little ole Sam Cassell was called for a flagrant foul. Yes! 6-3, 185-pound SAM I AM a flagrant on big bad LeBron. James came driving down the lane and Cassell reached out and grabbed his jersey from behind. What happened? James’ arms went flailing, legs went flying and he crashed to the ground and came up with what became a trademark move in the Wizards series: He was dabbing his lip and chin as if he got hit in the face. Uh, Sam grabbed you from BEHIND LeBron, and you landed on your backside. Your face is fine. For someone who says “I was built for this. I’m not 6-9, 260 pounds to shoot jumpers all night. I go to the hole and I create contact. Don’t ever think I’m the only person feeling that,” LBJ sure doesn’t carry himself with a whole lot of toughness when he thinks he can draw a foul.\ \ \ Eddie Jordan said it best: “LeBron’s a terrific actor, we’ve seen his commercials.” And the more I see him, The Big Crybaby label Tom Knott applied to him two years ago seems more fitting. Brendan Haywood was right in his “They’re tryin’ to hurt me,” mock pouting.\ \ \ So, until James develops a jump shot and stops acting and focuses on simply destroying his opponent instead of trying to constantly get help from the refs, he can’t be the best in the league in my book.\ \ \ Once he has those things in order, then man, what a nightmare he’ll be. But for now, he still as work left to do.\


\ Photo by Getty Images\

\ — Mike Jones