Now, almost two decades later, it’s easy to tell with a 20-20 look back: Not only was the hype real, it was deserved too.
The buzz – among fans and the media, scouts and team leaders – began years before LeBron James made his NBA debut on October 29, 2003, moving straight to the St. Mary-St. . Vincent High School in Akron, Ohio.
The buzz turned more of a roar by the time he was drafted No. 1 overall by the Cavaliers.
In fact, The Sporting News asked the question on its May 26, 2003 cover: Is LeBron James overvalued? (Spoiler alert: No he wasn’t, but there were legitimate questions as to whether he was over-marketed as a teenager.)
Now, in its 75th season, the NBA is celebrating players on its NBA75 roster by the end of the season, and LeBron James is the winner on December 21.
So much has been written about LeBron over the course of his career that it seems like a good time to go back to looking for some of the earliest news threads, which is no surprise that TSN’s premier has it. named to a high school sophomore All-America team. in 2001.
Here are seven chosen times, from dozens from Spring 2001 to Fall 2003, that LeBron’s name appeared on the pages of The Sporting News:
1. When TSN first mentioned his name
Date of issue: March 26, 2001
TSN wrote: TSN High School All-Americans. Sophomore LeBron James: At just 16, James came to the nation with 33 points against powerhouse Oak Hill in January. Still working on another Ohio State Division III title with St. Vincent-St. Mary High last week, the 6-6, 205-pound goalie averaged 25.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7 assists.
2. When a subclass all-star game eclipsed the seniors
Date of issue: July 23, 2001
TSN wrote: Junior LeBron James was the top player at the adidas ABCD camp in Teaneck, NJ, and his name dominated conversations about water fountains. His clash with little senior striker Lenny Cooke will be remembered for a long time. James scored 3 points when the bell rang to give his team the victory.
The ABCD camp was talented and deep, despite the general lack of depth in the senior class. The playmaker position was particularly busy and the subclasses invited to camp were great. In fact, the Subclass All-Star Game at the end of the camp was a much bigger success than the Senior Game. Second-year goaltender Sebastian Telfair of New York and James of Akron, Ohio were the main attractions, and they didn’t disappoint.
3. When TSN’s Caught on the Fly heard whispers
Date of issue: Aug 13, 2001
TSN wrote: Fly is never quite sure what to make of the hoops still eating sloppy Joes on Styrofoam boards in the fifth period, but the Spies say the country’s best prep player is Akron’s LeBron James, who will only be a junior this year. After watching James drop 24-year-old top senior Lenny Cooke in a summer game, a veteran scout whispered, “He’s the best high school player I’ve ever seen.”
4. When he was training with MJ… in 2001
Date of issue: June 10, 2002
TSN wrote: The Cavaliers’ penalty – a $ 150,000 fine and a two-game suspension for coach John Lucas – for allowing high school phenomenon LeBron James to participate in a practice session seems excessive, especially since this It’s no secret that James has had contact with other NBA teams. Under NBA rules, Assistant Commissioner Russ Granik told reporters: “Teams are not allowed to have contact with a player who is not eligible for the draft.” Last summer, James was part of Wizards SF Michael Jordan‘s return training in Chicago.
5. When, in the cover of the 2002 NBA Draft, TSN looked to 2003
Date of issue: July 1, 2002
TSN wrote: Upset because you’re sure your hometown hell team blew it up again with another terrible lottery pick? Well, fear not – NBA Draft 2003 is a year away, and we’re already looking at how the lottery might shake up.
1. LeBron James, G / F, 6-7 St. Vincent-St. Mary (Akron, Ohio) HS Write it in ink as choice # 1. He would have become No. 1 this year.
6. When TSN said, “Let the LeBron-a-thon begin”
Date of issue: December 23, 2002
TSN’s Sean Deveney wrote: It didn’t take a mid-season game in high school – albeit one against the country’s top-ranked team, played in front of more than 11,000 fans, a national television audience and around 50 members of the media – to secure LeBron James’ status as a safe number one. 1 choice in the NBA draft next June. That he scored 31 points on 12-for-25 shots, picked up 13 rebounds, distributed six assists and led St. Vincent-St. Mary of Akron, Ohio, to a 20-point victory over Oak Hill (Va.) Academy only added to LeBron’s legend. Long before that public screening, the league dregs have been anxiously awaiting the LeBron-a-thon lottery next spring, when bouncing ping-pong balls will determine who gets James and who gets everyone.
While the crowd that showed up to see James was impressive, the most telling was who wasn’t there – scouts from most of the NBA teams. As one Eastern Conference staff member put it, “What remains to be seen? It’s written in ink. It is carved in stone. He is n ° 1.
We know he’s a great passer, able to play the point from an advanced point. We know he has instincts, jumping ability, size, and Michael Jordan approval. But is James that good? Aren’t there some negatives that go with the 6-8, 240-pound teenager who was once crowned King James?
“The only downsides are the uncertainties,” says a Western Conference scout. “Can he defend at the NBA level? Nobody knows that. Can he handle being knocked down? There will be a lot of guys looking to take him down when he enters the league.
“And what about the pressure and scrutiny? He really does seem like a nice guy off the pitch. He speaks well and behaves well. Those are big advantages. because he’s a kid who has been courted by agents and shoe companies for four years. It can twist a person’s mind. “
In the game against Oak Hill, James struggled a bit with his rider, but even that didn’t bother the scouts.
“You’re looking for form and he’s got good shooting form,” says an Eastern Conference scout. “I watched Michael Finley go 1 for 15 when he was in Wisconsin, but I gave him high marks for shooting. James is a good shot, but everything he does is awesome. “
James appears to fit the mold of two other athletic wingers, groomed for the pros, who have gone on to become NBA stars: Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady. But even that mold might not be big enough for him.
“He’s downright better than these guys were when they were in high school,” the Eastern Conference staff man said. “But that said, Kobe and McGrady worked very, very hard to harness their abilities and maximize them. If he does that kind of work, then, yes, he could be better than them. It’s hard to say who will be. those who are willing to do it.
7. When Hall of Famer Rick Barry wrote, “I believe in the hype”
Date of issue: June 29, 2003
Rick Barry wrote: LeBron James is expected to take the Cavaliers from the basement to the playoffs, earn Rookie of the Year honors and give off a personality off the field that belies his years. Is it reasonable to believe that the 18-year-old will meet these expectations?
If anyone can do it, James can. James, the most high-profile high school player of all time, possesses a level of physical maturity that neither Kobe Bryant nor Kevin Garnett had when he was drafted. Sure, his game can be improved – who doesn’t? – but overall, James is fundamentally strong and athletically exceptional.
What I like most about James is his ability to see the ground. I have said many times that you can teach a player to pass, but you cannot teach him to see. James has a sense of court and instincts that cannot be taught. Although he is obviously the focal point of his high school team, he has also been able to improve the players around him.
Even more impressive than that was his willingness to work with his teammates. James is a selfless gamer who understands how the game should be played. He’ll have no problem adjusting to his new teammates, and as a young rookie, he’ll handle good-natured hazing with ease.
James has said all the right things so far. He was confident but humble, frank but cautious. His mental maturity will be very useful to him because his every move, on and off the pitch, is scrutinized and reported by the media.
I don’t know if the Cavs can make the playoffs or if James will be Rookie of the Year. What I do know is that in the next NBA season fans will be treated to a dazzling display of the skills of a mature multimillionaire beyond his years.
Sadly, as LeBron begins his exciting professional journey, has-beens like me have to settle for more mundane activities. I’ll be replacing James Brown on Sporting News Radio all week. I only hope I can live up to the high expectations.
Senior Editorial Consultant Bob Hille has worked for or with The Sporting News for over 25 years.