What do you get the basketball superstar who already has everything?
How about a sky hook?
LeBron James' birthday is still two-and-a-half months away, though he's already hard at work on the latest gift to his own game. According to Michael Wallace of ESPN.com, the three-time NBA MVP has been adding Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's signature shot to his extensive arsenal of moves in anticipation of the Miami Heat's upcoming title defense.
And you thought LeBron was unstoppable before...
James established himself as an imposing post-up presence last season. After spending some time with Hakeem Olajuwon during the lockout, LeBron came back with elements of the Dream Shake embedded in his own game. At long last, LeBron was well-equipped to use his size, strength, footwork and athleticism to punish opponents down low—be they too small to stand up to him or too slow to stay between him and the rim.
As a result, LeBron registered a staggering player efficiency rating (PER) of 37.1 while at power forward last season, per 82games.com.
Still, it wasn't until Game 1 of the Heat's second-round playoff series against the Indiana Pacers this past spring—when Chris Bosh went down with an abdominal injury—that James' post game took center stage. Rather than pull another lumbering big man into the lineup, head coach Erik Spoelstra opted to play LeBron at power forward.
A move that James admitted was "taxing" at the time (via The Miami Herald).
However strenuous the challenge, it ultimately worked to a tee for Miami. LeBron acclimated himself to playing with his back to the basket, and once Bosh came back during the Eastern Conference finals, Miami's brand of "small ball" took off and ran away with the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
Not surprisingly, the success of such lineups has Spoelstra thinking more time for LeBron at the 4 and James preparing accordingly. As he told Michael Wallace: “I'll be down here even more this year. Might as well keep getting more comfortable.”
Surely, the addition of a sky hook will help in that regard. Rather than having to repeatedly bowl his way to the basket with brute force when he's on the block, LeBron will have the option of tossing up a sweeping hook, thereby limiting the amount of physical contact he has to endure.
True, LeBron is nowhere near as long or as tall as Kareem, nor does he necessarily sport the same feathery touch that made the sky hook so successful for the NBA's all-time leading scorer. James, though, has the footwork and the lift to make it work.
He's shown in the past that he can pull off reasonable facsimiles of the sky hook while on the move:
Now, all LeBron needs to do is develop a feel for and a comfort level with that same maneuver while on the block.
Which shouldn't be too much to expect, if his development in the post so far is any indication:
More important than the sky hook itself is the fact that it becomes just one more dish on LeBron's Cheesecake Factory-esque menu of offensive options. If a defender wants to keep him from spinning toward the basket one way, LeBron can spin back the other and make his man pay with a powerful ode to a six-time champion.
Consider it another layer of icing on LeBron's already-ornate cake.
Let's just hope he doesn't send this one back.