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James impressing his idol, Air Jordan

Tuesday, June 5, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:37 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

His Airness is paying tribute to the kid called King James.

Michael Jordan praised 22-year-old LeBron James for leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to victory over the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference finals. The Cavaliers advanced to the finals for the first time in their 37-year history.

“What just transpired was something I felt was needed for the league, was needed for Cleveland, was needed for LeBron,” Jordan said in Monday editions of the Chicago Tribune.

Jordan said the next challenge for James is to achieve consistency.

“Making ‘The Leap’ is where you do it every single night,” Jordan said. “It’s expected of you, and you do it. ... Not one game, not two games. It’s consistent. Every defense comes in and they focus on you and you still impact the game. I think he’s shown signs of that.”

James took a “big step” forward in the series against Detroit, but the NBA finals against the San Antonio Spurs will provide another huge test, Jordan said.

“This next series is going to say, ‘How far do you want to take it?’” said Jordan, speaking from Elkhart Lake, Wis., where his motorcycle team was participating in a racing event.

James was thrilled to learn of Jordan’s approval.

“It’s great,” the Cavaliers star said after practice on Monday. “Anytime you get praise from the guy who basically laid down all the stones for you to get here. I grew up idolizing his game and how he played the game of basketball. It was definitely great to hear.”

JOHNSON SUSPENDED: Tank Johnson is the latest NFL player to feel the impact of commissioner Roger Goodell’s crackdown on off-field misbehavior.

The Chicago Bears’ defensive tackle was suspended Monday for the first eight games of the 2007 NFL season, the third player sidelined this offseason under Goodell’s toughened personal-conduct policy.

Johnson, who recently spent two months in the Cook County jail for violating probation on a gun charge, joins Tennessee’s Adam “Pacman” Jones, suspended for the entire season, and Cincinnati’s Chris Henry, out eight games. Jones, who’s appealing his suspension, has been arrested five times and had 10 interviews with police since being drafted in 2005.


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