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06-11-2003, 10:42 AM
http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=8280078&BRD=1699&PAG=461&dept_id=46370&rfi=6

CLEVELAND -- The rivalry was born on Feb. 10, 2002.

Where it ends up, nobody knows.

That was the date of the first matchup between St. Vincent-St. Mary's LeBron James and Oak Hill Academy's Carmelo Anthony.

James outscored Anthony, then a senior at Oak Hill, 36-34, but the Warriors soundly defeated St. Vincent-St. Mary, 72-66, in the Prime Time Shootout in Trenton, N.J.

''Some people say it was the greatest high school game they ever saw,'' Anthony said.

Their paths didn't cross in 2003. Anthony, a slick 6-foot-8, 220-pound small forward, led the Syracuse Orangemen to the NCAA Division I championship, while James guided the Fighting Irish to the Ohio Division II state title.

Now, they are expected to be among the top three picks in the June 26 NBA draft. James, a 6-8, 240-pounder, will almost certainly be selected by the Cavaliers with the No. 1 pick. Anthony seems to be earmarked to Denver at No. 3.

They remain close friends and recently both signed shoe deals with Nike.

At least twice publicly in the last couple weeks, Anthony said if he were donning the cap of an NBA general manager, he wouldn't choose ''The Chosen One'' with the first overall pick.

''I think I should go No. 1,'' he said.

They first met during the USA Basketball Festival in Colorado Springs, Colo., two years ago. The two rookies will meet twice during the regular season. They might be teammates in the Rookie Challenge during All-Star weekend.

James, 18, has been fanning the flames of the rivalry in recent weeks. He prodded Anthony about another competition.

''LeBron called me the other day and told me to get ready because it's a race for Rookie of the Year,'' Anthony said.

James said he became friends with Anthony a couple years ago.

''We met a couple years back and became friends right away because I think two good players should stick together as friends off the court,'' he said. ''I'm excited about what Carmelo did for his team this year. Hopefully, he's excited about what we're about to get ourselves into on the endorsement side and the basketball side.

''I'm out there doing the things I love to do and that's to play the game of basketball. Playing against great competition night in and night out is going to be great. That's what's going to motivate me.''

The two stars talked during the draft lottery May 22. Anthony joked that he thought there might be some funny business going on that night.

''Yeah, I talked to him while the lottery was going on,'' Anthony said. ''I kind of knew Cleveland was going to get the No. 1 pick. I think they rigged it. No, don't quote me on that.''

Grizzlies president Jerry West said there's no doubt who he'd take if he had kept the No. 2 pick (he sent it to Detroit to complete an earlier ill-advised trade).

''In my mind, there's a clear No. 2, you better believe it,'' West said. ''To me, it's very clear. Unfortunately, we won't find it out. We'll let somebody else find it out for themselves.''

He was referring to Anthony. However, the Pistons are expected to draft Serbian power forward Darko Milicic with the second pick.

Denver will have to ''settle'' for Anthony. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

''With all the exposure that LeBron has gotten, he would have created more excitement in our market than Carmelo,'' Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke said. ''But there's a lot of debate about whether Carmelo is really the better player. I don't know. But Jerry West is awful strong about him.''

Let the rivalry run amok.

''I know everybody is going to portray me and LeBron to be enemies,'' Anthony said. ''I understand there is a rivalry between us. But it's not a bad rivalry. It's a friendly rivalry.

''Every time we step on the court, I think the arena is going to get sold out. Every time we play LeBron. Denver against Cleveland.''