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USA Basketball president lauds LeBron James’ maturity

Aug 14, 2012, 8:01 AM EDT

US forward LeBron James scores during th Getty Images

There was a time in 2006 when it was possible LeBron James was not going to make the 2008 Beijing Olympic team.

Not because of his talent, that was undeniable. He was already one of the game’s elite players. But it was his attitude of entitlement that didn’t sit well with USA Basketball president Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski, or his teammates. Adrian Wojnarowski explains at Yahoo Sports.

Before they ever finalized a roster to chase a gold medal in Beijing, USA Basketball officials delivered an unmistakable ultimatum to LeBron James: Unless you grow up, treat people with respect, and commit to taking this seriously, we’ll leave you home for the 2008 Olympic Games. Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski wanted a culture of commitment and had come to believe that James’ momentous talent couldn’t overcome his impulses to instigate and infuriate everyone.

Oh what a difference six years can make.

The maturity that LeBron has shown on the court — both in the finals and helping Team USA win gold by playing an all-around game — is very evident now, Colangelo said.

“LeBron James is a different player and a different person than he was in ’06,” Colangelo said in a private moment after the 107-100 gold medal victory. “And I say that with exclamation marks. He’s matured incredibly as a person, player and leader….

“He’s matured incredibly … ,” Colangelo told Yahoo! Sports. “He never had someone to emulate in his life, and Coach K fit into a great role. He did the rest himself. He’s grown so much. So much.”

Coach K probably helped him mature and taught him lessons. Certainly so have Dwyane Wade and Pat Riley have as well.

But the biggest difference is that in 2006 LeBron was 21, he is now 27. I can say that the person I was at 27 was far more mature and responsible (relatively) to the person I was at 21. We all have things in our past we regret, we all grew up a lot in those years. LeBron just had to do it in a fishbowl.

But it’s clear to everyone he has grown up some.

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