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Jordan praises James' play, says 'consistency' next challenge
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James (23) loses the basketball to Detroit Pistons' Antonio McDyess (24) in the fourth quarter of Cleveland's 98-82 win in Game 6 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals Saturday, June 2, 2007, in Cleveland. The Cavaliers advanced to the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

CHICAGO - The man they once called His Airness is paying tribute to the kid they call King James.

Former Chicago Bull Michael Jordan praised LeBron James for leading his Cleveland Cavaliers to victory over the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference finals.

"What just transpired was something I felt was needed for the league, was needed for Cleveland, was needed for LeBron," the 44-year-old Jordan said in an interview that appeared in Monday editions of the Chicago Tribune.

The playoff performance by James, who many have pegged for years as the natural NBA heir of Jordan, included scoring Cleveland's final 25 points to end Game 5 against Detroit.

Jordan, who won six championships during his 13 seasons with the Bulls, said the next step for the 22-year-old James is to achieve consistency.

"Making 'The Leap' is where you do it every single night," said Jordan. "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, said Jordan, speaking from Elkhart Lake, Wis., where his motorcycle team was participating in a racing event.

"This next series is going to say, "How far do you want to take it?" Jordan said.

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