- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 6, 2009

LeBron James has been the Chosen One ever since his senior season at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio.

His team’s games were aired on ESPN, his mug displayed in countless publications. Nike inked James to a $90 million shoe deal a month before he was drafted by the Cavaliers, and soon enough he became King James and his Cleveland-based followers became his Witnesses.

The hype enveloping James always has been heavy-handed, if not premature.

He still has not won an NBA championship - part of the definition of greatness in basketball - even as he basks in the adulation of being selected the league’s MVP this week.

The honor was deserving. In fact, the voting was not even close. Nor should it have been. James did more with less than his two rivals, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade.

The Cavaliers tout two solid players in Mo Williams and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. The rest of their roster features a collection of role players with varying skill sets. It is a roster that, without James, would have been hard-pressed to qualify for the playoffs. With him in the lineup for all but one game in the regular season, the Cavaliers won a league-best 66 games and are favored to advance to the NBA Finals.

A James-Bryant showdown is anticipated, assuming Bryant and the Lakers can recover from being smacked in Game 1 at home by the Rockets on Monday.

A James-Bryant meeting, if it comes to be, will not be a referendum on the quality of the two alpha males.

The 24-year-old James already is a more complete player than Bryant ever was, as evidenced by his MVP numbers this season. James averaged 28.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7.2 assists. Bryant never has averaged as many rebounds and assists in a season.

And James pieced together those numbers in an offense that could be described as plodding and uninspiring.

What James might fashion in the up-tempo, free-flowing offense of Mike D’Antoni concerns all the Witnesses, for James becomes a free agent next summer and the Knicks are high on the list of potential employers.

The worry is probably overstated considering what James has achieved in his home state and the sense of loyalty he feels to the region. It is a sense that led him to have the words “family” and “loyalty” tattooed on his rib cage this season. It is a sense, too, that prompted him to hold his MVP news conference at his old high school before friends, family and teammates.

And there is no reason why James cannot do for Cleveland what Michael Jordan did for Chicago. Before Jordan steered the Bulls to six NBA championships in the ‘90s, the franchise’s basketball history was mostly cloaked in frustration.

That parallel should not be lost on those who see James bolting to a sexier market.

James is not the heir to Jordan, as has been ventured. He is a prototype pushing the game into the future, just as Jordan did and just as Julius Erving and Elgin Baylor did before Jordan.

James is larger than all those men and equally athletic. A 6-foot-8 chiseled rock, James is a linebacker with finesse. No one absorbs contact and finishes plays at the basket like he does. And he has become a tenacious defender.

His only flaw, albeit a tiny one, is his modest 3-point shooting, which he undoubtedly will improve in the seasons ahead. His upward statistical progression shows no signs of abating as he posted personal highs in field goal and free throw percentage this season.

He long has been the king. Now he just needs a crown.

“My mission hasn’t been completed,” he said. “I still have a lot of things I want to do this season. I want to have another celebration in June.”

If James is celebrating in June, it will mean he has a championship ring in his possession and that he finally has caught up to the hype.

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