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David
11-18-2002, 07:41 PM
Monday, November 18, 2002
LeBron's world
By By Tom Friend

He's either going to the NBA or the hospital -- whichever comes first.

LeBron James dunked a basketball in practice this weekend, decided to take the whole rim with him and landed spine-first. He could've broken his neck -- or worse, his promise to buy his mom the world -- but he got up, slung his adidas bag over his shoulder and walked straight to the john.

Asked later how he'd managed to dislodge an entire rim, he said, "All that liftin'." But the truth is, this cannot keep happening. He is 17 going on rookie-of-the-year, and he has too much at stake to be dunking on rickety high school rims. In June, he broke his wrist at a Chicago AAU tournament, when some wanna-be undercut him, and then at his St. Vincent-St. Mary High School practice in Akron not long ago, he got undercut again.

LeBron James
LeBron James has outgrown the high school game.

"I'm off!" he said that day at his high school, plopping himself down in the bleachers.

"Where you going, n-----? We're practicing," said his teammate and close friend, Sian Cotton.

"I broke my f------ wrist being undercut like that, n-----," James answered.

Either way, James is about to start a senior year of high school that potentially could be frightful. His mother, at one point last year, insinuated she wouldn't be against him turning pro after the 11th grade, and now we know why. He has the body of a 25-year-old (6'8", 240), and, when he goes hard to the rack, those are 5'9", 16-year-olds trying to draw the charge. He has outgrown high school, outgrown high school refs and outgrown high school rims that can no longer take his punch.

After he tore the one down on Saturday -- during a scrimmage I witnessed in a Stow, Ohio, auxiliary gym -- he and the rim lay there side-by-side. The team's trainer went rushing toward James, and eventually the Stow High School athletic director went rushing for the rim.

That rim was cash lying on the ground. That's how out of hand LeBron James Fever is. LeBron's surrogate father, Eddie Jackson, tried to grab the rim himself -- "for the trophy case," he said -- but the AD, Gene Lolli, wouldn't let him have it.

"We'll sue you, then," said Jackson, who is possibly facing jail time for mortgage fraud. "We'll sue you for the fall."

LeBron's mother, Gloria, then started chirping herself. "Sue, baby, sue," she said, laughing.

Jackson asked again for the rim, and again, the AD said no.

Jackson: "You take this lawsuit then."

Gloria (yelling): "We about to have a sweeeeet Christmas!"

Jackson: "Lawsuit, man."

Gloria (yelling again): "He's trying to get paid!"

It was all certainly facetious -- especially since LeBron was back scrimmaging again soon and dunking on underclassmen -- but it also showed how much of a cash cow LeBron has become. Money is a lot of what Eddie and Gloria talk about, and money is a lot of what his fans talk about. Last year, LeBron was appalled when several of his autographs ended up being hawked on eBay, and his teachers say his innocence was permanently over after that. It's not that LeBron's been unaffected -- he wears a two-way pager and two separate cellular phones on his waistband wherever he goes -- but he just doesn't believe in people profiting off of him. Sincerely doesn't.

He thinks his memorabilia should go scot-free, and not that long ago, he brought a duffel bag full of sneakers with him to school. These shoe companies have long showered him with free sneaks, and it was his idea -- his idea alone -- to pick up a microphone during lunch period and hold a free shoe auction. He asked questions like, "Who did we beat in the state playoffs last year?" Or, "When is Sian Cotton's birthday?" And the winner would get free sneakers. Could've sold them on eBay.

But high school is jaded for him now, and LeBron James is living in a world where his headbands are for sale -- the price going up by the minute after this latest dunk, which was of course caught on videotape. He's living in a world where he'd better not get injured, or the Knicks, Heat, Cavaliers, Nuggets, Warriors and Grizzlies are going to slit their wrists. He's living in a world where he'd better have good insurance -- after all, it could be a backboard falling on him next time.

"We got it covered," Jackson said.

It's a world getting more ridiculous all the time, and before Eddie and Gloria left the gym Saturday, they asked one more time for the rim.

"Give me six autographed basketballs, and you've got it," said the Stow AD, whose school would've auctioned the balls off for cash.

"You can take your basketballs and ...," said LeBron's mom.

If she wasn't getting paid, nobody was.



Tom Friend is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at tom.friend@espnmag.com.

Copyright Đ2002 ESPN Internet Ventures.

MFFL
11-18-2002, 07:49 PM
I love the guy's game and I hope he doesn't fall for all of the hype. He has a chance to be a great player.

FilthyFinMavs
11-18-2002, 07:59 PM
I justhope he realizes the NBA and High school are 2 different things. He still thinks like a kid becasue he is one. He isn't gonna have lil Damon Stoudamires trying to guard him in the NBA he is gonna face the Bowens and the Buckners.

Blonde Bomber
11-18-2002, 10:50 PM
Does anybody know what his natural position will be...PG or SG?

I have never heard such hype over a high school player. What is he suppose to be the next superstar? Jordan? AI? Kobe?

MFFL
11-18-2002, 11:19 PM
The kid is amazing. Check out this link.

http://www.xemup.com/lebron.html

I think he'll be a SG/SF.

Cipherous
11-19-2002, 12:48 AM
Hes a 17 year old kid but has a body of built NBA forward, 6'7" 240lbs! Man, when this kid is like 27 years, I'd hate to see what he'd be.

mcsluggo
11-19-2002, 02:50 PM
Unfortunately, he'll probably be Shawn Kemp (the last real "man-child" of the nba) when hes 27.

It would be nearly impossible for almost any 17 year old to handle all this crap, and even given that most of moneygrubbing reported about his parents is hyperbole, it hardly seems as if he's getting the grounding in reality he's gonna need to survive being a superstar.

Rhylan
11-19-2002, 04:07 PM
'Brons world, 'Brons world, party time, excellent! whooo, wooo, wooo!! i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif

If I was him, I'd stop playing right now. Money grubbing high school starts making money off PPV on ME? Dude, I'd have a sudden case of flu-like symptoms.

That's the BS about amateur athletics, and I can't say I blame these guys for skipping/leaving college -- even though it'd be better for the game if they went. As long as GMs are willing to draft them, then there's a market for their services. I'd take it in a heartbeat. College sucked. And I know I'm smarter than your average Amare Stoutmire i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif (who, btw, IS the NBA's current man-child.. and he's gonna be good, I think!)

So if I'm LeBron, I stop playing right this second. Keep on working out, just don't put on my high school uniform. Why would I let those fools make money off of me? I'd still get drafted somewhere in the first round, guaranteed money.

On the other hand, the #1 pick will get what, $12 mil guaranteed? Where #20 will get something like $4 mil, probably. I'd still take a stand, and boycott high school athletics as long as the PPV stuff goes on -- it would increase my legend. i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif But that's me. I'd take $4 mil and a late-pick with a contender over $12 mil with the Nuggets or Cavs.

Dooby
11-19-2002, 04:27 PM
If I am Lebron, I say screw it, I am going to Europe for a few months and get paid.

FilthyFinMavs
11-19-2002, 04:29 PM
I see him being a Allen Iverson and Shawn Kemp mixed together. Will be great talent on a horrible team and franchise like Cavs IMO. Reason why he is so hyped up is because hte guy is 6 8 and 240 and 17 years old? This guy isn't even done growing yet he is gonna end up beinga roudn 7 foot and playing like Kobe. That is going to make him impossible to guard as u can see from Dirk. Except from what I hear he has Magic passing skills kobe handles and MJ talent. I don't think he will be the next MJ as they say but I think he will be a good talent.

Epitome22
11-19-2002, 05:27 PM
This guy is a badass

Fidel
11-19-2002, 11:41 PM
<< If I am Lebron, I say screw it, I am going to Europe for a few months and get paid. >>


But instead of highschool kids, heīd have to play against some real players in Europe. That could hurt his rep. I also noticed that he gets away with alot of travelling in those highlight clips. Donīt know what else to say. Maybe heīll be great, but I donīt expect him to be a great NBA player right away.

Epitome22
11-20-2002, 04:40 AM
Yah, If I was LeBron I would stay away from Europe for fear that my reputation might be tarnished by the legendary defensive skills of European basketball players i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif

MavKikiNYC
11-20-2002, 07:42 AM
Man-child playing against men doesn't create the same highlight reel that man-child against boys does.

Plus, how would his mom and guardian-father demean team officials in a foreign language?

Fidel
11-20-2002, 11:27 AM
Epitome, I guess you donīt know about Euro ball then. Perhaps LeBron could play over here, but thereīs no way heīs the standout that he is amongst 5&quot;9 highschool kids.