Meetings in June would mean more

LeBron vs. Carmelo will reach Magic vs. Larry status when they face off in June, not November.

Updated: November 6, 2003, 12:25 AM ET
By Marc Stein | ESPN.com

It's the most unrealistic expectation yet to be placed on LeBron James. And Carmelo Anthony shares it with him.

Let's all please stop with this stuff about these two recreating Magic vs. Larry.

Really. It's not fair to them. LeBron and 'Melo are carrying enough of a burden as franchise saviors.

You had every reason to expect a better show from both of them in their maiden matchup as pros. Both have already proved, at this level, that they can play better than they did in a 93-89 victory for Denver that was dominated in the second half by 5-foot-5 Earl Boykins.

I was convinced going in that LeBron, with a few extra days of rest, would look more like the LeBron who sparkled in Sacramento and Phoenix. I was equally convinced Carmelo would be right there with him, on the premise that they're players, even as teens, who don't have two bad games in a row. It didn't happen in part because Cleveland didn't get James the ball enough in the fourth quarter and because Boykins was going too well for Denver to take the ball out of his hands.

Yet even if the kiddies had staged a spectacular duel, they'd still be years away from a rivalry to rival Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird.

Don't forget that Magic and Larry, besides being Magic and Larry, managed to wind up with the league's two most storied franchises after their famed championship clash in college. Lakers vs. Celtics was a steel-cage series before either one was out of grade school. Magic and Larry certainly revived the rivalry and carried it (and the rest of the league) to a whole new level, but also don't forget that both legends had plenty of big-name help: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and later James Worthy for Magic; Kevin McHale and Robert Parish followed Bird to Boston.

LeBron and Carmelo already are rivals for Rookie of the Year and sure to be measured against each other for the rest of their careers. Yet, there's only one way they'll be rivals for the ages, and that's by putting Cavaliers vs. Nuggets on national TV in June.

That's how far away they are from Magic and Larry, no matter what had happened Wednesday night.

Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here. Also, click here to send a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
• Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics

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