LeBron, Shaq reflect on Milwaukee Bucks’ rookie Brandon Jennings

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By Jake McCormick

Four NBA Championships, 3 NBA Finals MVPs, two league MVPs, two Rookie of the Years, 20 All Star appearances, three scoring championships, and two gold medals speak volumes about the combined accomplishments of Cleveland Cavalier teammates LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal. So when they talk about a player, in this case Milwaukee Bucks’ rookie Brandon Jennings, people listen.

“Jennings is a very talented player; he’s very quick, very fast,” James said after the Cavs’ 101-86 win against the Bucks. “He’s very confident in his abilities.”

BJAfter posting 21.8 points, 5.7 assists, 4 rebounds, and a 50% three point percentage, Jennings was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for October/November. Even with only 19 games under his belt, the Milwaukee offense runs through the 6’1” 169 lb 20-year-old point guard. That’s remarkable enough itself, but early praise from Shaq and LeBron speak candidly about Jennings’ expectations and potential.

More than a few reporters, columnists and panelists on the various “sports shouting” shows have compared Jennings to Allen Iverson, minus the occasional controversy. But opposing players are typically better judges of talent and ability than the people that are paid to watch and discuss the game.

An athlete doesn’t risk losing a good interview subject when speaking about a player’s talent level and potential, and their opinions are always taken as far as their resume. Striking Kazaam from the record, Shaquille O’Neal has one of the most respected opinions and playing careers in the NBA. And he had nothing but praise for the budding career of Brandon Jennings.

“He reminds me of an Allen Iverson/Nick Van Exel combination,” O’Neal said. “He’s a hell of a player, everyone knows his story and I wish him well.”

James said Jennings has confidence that typically comes with experience. That sets the bar pretty high for the rookie, who has already been touted as a type of savior for a franchise that desperately needs a face and personality.

“(Confidence) is something you gain over the years in NBA, but he has it right now,” James said. “He knows how to play the game of basketball. They’ve given him that torch to carry the team.”

ShaqO’Neal added that Bucks’ coach Scott Skiles and his background as a point guard have helped Jennings grow quicker than an Obama chia pet profit margin. Pushing the comparisons a bit farther, Shaq wasn’t shy about Jennings’ chances of joining the elite class of superstars led by Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, and LeBron.

“I see Kobe, D-Wade, and LeBron but you just have to be consistent,” O’Neal said. “The good thing about the names just mentioned is they have been consistent since day one.”

On the court, James let Jennings know that he still has much to learn when James’ blocked his shot after Jennings’ drew some preliminary “ooh”s with a quick behind the back crossover driving to the basket.

“I basically said that I like to pass the baton down or give advice,” James said. “It looks like he’s handling it the right way, but at the same time if he ever gets into a situation where he needs help he can give me a call.”

When the face of the NBA extends an olive branch and gives you his business card after 19 games in the league, you’re doing something right.

“It’s very tough to be a superstar in this league,” he said. “But right now he’s doing an unbelievable job for this team, this franchise.”

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Comments

  1. paulmbanks says

    Great piece! Must have been really fun to interview LeBron and Shaq on the same night. Excellent material you should retweet this at numerous NBA peeps on twitter

  2. lots of juice in this article

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