Updated: Mar 19, 2022
During my sophomore year at N.C. State, I remember hearing about a phenom from Akron that was projected to set the basketball world on fire. His purported skill set seemed mythical. The experts were proclaiming that a 6'8'' high school prospect with an elite basketball IQ, and court vision that we hadn't seen since Magic Johnson, would be the next big thing to shake up the NBA. After hearing various pundits bestow accolades upon LeBron James, I decided to watch the next St. Vincent-St. Mary High School game scheduled to air on ESPN.
As the kid from Akron’s game on ESPN, neared tip-off, I sat quietly in my dorm room with a Steel Reserve 211 and thought to myself, there’s no way a ball player in high school could warrant this type of frenzy. In my mind, I had seen everything there was to see on the basketball court. I grew up witnessing all-time greats like Magic, Isiah, Bird, Jordan, and the human highlight reel, Dominique Wilkins accomplish every imaginable feat on the basketball court. I even witnessed 5'3'' Muggsy Bogues live out the unfathomable dream of every vertically challenged brother (including myself), make it to the NBA, and become the starting point guard for my home team, the Charlotte Hornets.
As I clutched my Steel Reserve 211 (an embodiment of poverty in a can that only a few broke college students can comprehend), LeBron and his teammates took the floor in their green and gold jerseys. As Lebron and his team warmed up, I noticed white patches were on various parts of his body to cover his tattoos. For some reason, it started to click at that very moment, that LeBron had a different level of belief and confidence in himself that even surpassed the superlatives that scouts were bestowing upon him. At the young age of 17, LeBron whole-heartedly believed that he was the Chosen 1.
Once the game started LeBron not only proved the scouts right, he instantly made anybody watching that game a witness. There was the behind-the-back pass. The no-look Magic Johnson pass. And then it happened, LeBron took off on a fast-break possession and performed a tomahawk dunk, that prompted me to jump to my feet and cheer loudly and fist pump as if my alma mater N.C. State had just upset Duke. LeBron had officially turned me into a believer. I don’t know who was more excited during that game, me or commentator Dick Vitale. LeBron James was officially the best high school player I had watched play basketball on tv since Will Smith and Marcus Stokes went head to head on an episode of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
It was pretty remarkable watching LeBron defy Father Time back then. He was a teenager with immense talent, but he already possessed a level of unselfishness that rivaled Jason Kidd and Grant Hill in their primes. We are taught that wisdom comes with age, but James at the mere age of 17 was already as wise as the old owl that Nas referenced on If I Ruled The World. A kid from Akron on the biggest stage possible, made it clear that "There Is No I In Team." With cameras tuned in from around the world, the unstoppable force that was King James made it clear that passing the ball was just as important as scoring. A kid in high school with James' talent, at the age of 17, somehow––someway, already understood what we as adults still struggle to comprehend and execute. Scoring embodies individual success, but an assist requires unselfishness and the vision to put others in position to succeed (score). The ability to put others in a position to succeed via assists on and off-the court is LeBron's strongest attribute in my estimation. LeBron's ability to see the play before it fully develops highlights why he's a 1 of 1 individual on and off the court.
On the court, James has accomplished too many things to list, but just think about this for a moment:
30K Points, 10K Assists, 10K Rebounds
Coming back from being down 3-1 in the NBA Finals
Championships with 3 different teams
All Defensive Team 1st Team - 5 Times
Off the court, LeBron has accomplished too many feats to list, but just ponder these items for a few moments:
I Promise Program
Countless off the court assists that have created Black generational wealth for his inner circle (SpringHill Company, Klutch Sports, Lobos 1707, and the list goes on)
Several times, when he has nothing to gain from it, James has used his voice to speak out against systemic racism
Last, but not least, LeBron is a wine enthusiasts that shares his dope wine catalogue with the world. (Maybe one day, I'll have enough bread to try one or two of the wines that King James has shown off, lol.)
In closing, what I'll cherish most about watching the kid from Akron that has defied Father Time twice (once as a high school student, and then again as a 37 year old player who's still great at his craft, 56 and 50 point games sssheeessshhh) is that an assist is as important as scoring.
When you shine, I shine, and collectively we shine together.