Working with Hakeem Olajuwon helped LeBron James improve

Hakeem Olajuwon training with LeBron James paid dividends

This was in the late summer of 2011, and LeBron was still in full seeker mode in the aftermath of the Heat’s NBA Finals collapse against the Dallas Mavericks.

Ripped for disappearing when it mattered most, mocked for still finding himself without a championship eight seasons into his pro career, LeBron reached out to a veritable Mount Olympus of basketball greats as the NBA lockout dragged on.

He met with Magic Johnson, spoke with Isiah Thomas and tried unsuccessfully to set up a chat with Larry Bird.

However, it was the Hakeem Sessions that paid the most obvious dividend.

How many times during the Heat’s 2012 championship run did LeBron turn his back to the basket and spin past a helpless opponent for an easy score?

How many times during his third league MVP season did LeBron exchange the easy and the familiar of the perimeter for the rugged and the raw of the low post?

And how many times in those final three matchups, against the Pacers and the Celtics and the Thunder, did

LeBron help the Heat climb back from daunting series deficits with moves right out of the Olajuwon repertoire?

Spinning, dipping, up-and-unders?

Cheetah-like drop steps followed by thunderous slams?

And yes, even a handful of feathery fadeaways along the baseline, a move so familiar Olajuwon will soon be releasing a full line of lifestyle gear, including personally designed basketball shoes, in its honor.

The Dream Shake.

“I saw all of the moves we worked on,” Olajuwon, 49, says proudly. “When you work with a player, the satisfaction is in knowing that now, when it counts, when it is valued, he is executing.”

– Reported by Michael Berardino of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel