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Fortunately, Michael Jordan has already given us a nice head start on how to effectively guard the best player in basketball (courtesy of ESPN's Wright Thompson):
The announcers gush about LeBron, mentioning him in the same sentence with Jordan, who hears every word. Those words have an effect on him. He stares at the TV and points out a flaw in LeBron's game.
"I study him," he says.
When LeBron goes right, he usually drives; when he goes left, he usually shoots a jumper. It has to do with his mechanics and how he loads the ball for release. "So if I have to guard him," Jordan says, "I'm gonna push him left so nine times out of 10, he's gonna shoot a jump shot. If he goes right, he's going to the hole and I can't stop him. So I ain't letting him go right."
For the rest of the game, when LeBron gets the ball and starts his move, Jordan will call out some variation of "drive" or "shoot."
Jordan is right, much to the surprise of absolutely no one. That's the starting point when you're guarding LeBron James.
To go a step further, though, it's all about baiting LeBron into shooting from the perimeter. Yes, he's becoming increasingly deadly outside the paint as his career progresses, but that's still a pleasant alternative to his dominance when driving or posting up.
A driving LeBron James is more dangerous than anything we've ever seen in basketball.
He's a freight train barreling down the lane and an extraordinarily adept finisher when he gets to the rim, but there's more to the above statement than that.
James also possesses nearly unparalleled court vision for a player of his height and stature. The threat of him finding a shooter spotting up or a cutter nearing the basket is nearly as great as him finishing the play on his own. If you feel like it (and that's a debate for another time and place), add in the possibility of superstar calls.
Next time you're out shooting hoops, tell a buddy to spot up behind the arc on the weak side. Then drive to your non-dominant hand and attempt to bullet a pocket pass directly into the awaiting arms of your friend. Even if you do successfully hit your target, it's impossible to make that play look as effortless as James does.
You're more likely to develop LeBron-level jump-shooting skills than that pass.
It's plays like that one that make it so crucial for defenders to keep James on the perimeter. Force him to shoot jumpers at all costs and load up the interior of the defensive set with plenty of defenders who are both ready to help out and unafraid of ending up on a poster. Fear is crippling when you're guarding LeBron.
He'll still beat you from the perimeter on some nights, but it's much less likely.
Other than that, good luck...