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'Melo-LeBron not even close to a rivalry yet

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

Nov. 7
Well, the overhyped LeBron James-Carmelo Anthony rookie showdown this week was anticlimactic, with LeBron's Cleveland Cavaliers falling to Carmelo's Denver Nuggets 93-89. But now that the "rivalry" has started, let me share some feelings after watching these two go head-to-head.

I'm sorry, but you don't have a rivalry unless there's success. Think about past rivalries, like Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson. Those guys were going after a ring -- their teams, the Celtics and Lakers, were going after the NBA championship. The Nuggets and Cavaliers were just chasing a regular-season W!

LeBron
Anthony
Carmelo
That isn't a rivalry. There was curiosity over seeing a guy just removed from high school (LeBron) and a player who won a national championship in his only season at the collegiate level (Carmelo). People wondered how they would perform against the best of the best in the NBA.

Don't talk to me about a rivalry between LeBron and Carmelo yet. Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain had a rivalry! Bird and Magic, Michael Jordan and Magic! Team (and personal) success is what drove those rivalries.

In evaluating the situation, I can see a problem facing LeBron and Carmelo that young players in general face. As I wrote in my book, "Living a Dream," young guys need to learn how to play without the ball. When one watches James, a youngster with a world of talent, he has had a major problem playing off the ball.

When the ball was in point guard Kevin Ollie's hands Wednesday night, LeBron had virtually no clue as to what to do. He was stationary, standing on the wing. In a five-on-five situation, he has to learn the team concepts involved in the game of basketball.

In the open court in transition, LeBron has very few peers who can play at his level. But it's a learning experience in the five-on-five environment. Then, factor in shot selection and ability to shoot the rock. Obviously, those are areas that most young kids have to work on.

Patience, my friends. These two really had no choice from a financial perspective: How could they not jump to the NBA with the dollars they were offered? Still, nobody can convince me that a chance to grow and learn on the collegiate level would not be beneficial in terms of gaining valuable experience and developing court savvy.

Yes, I can't wait for the college-hoop season -- for the spirit, excitement and enthusiasm that will be generated. But there's no doubt that the NBA features the best of the best, the greatest athletes in the world ... and now LeBron and Carmelo are among them. I just hope that fans realize they must be patient, because it will take time for these two kids to become impact players.

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