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Tamir named one of Yahoo sports most hyped athletes of all time


Tom Bergeron

Rivals High Senior Editor

Say what you want about LeBron James.

Seriously, say what you want – it’s all been said before.

Associated Press
LeBron was the No. 1 high school player starting his junior year at St. Vincent/St. Mary in Akron, Ohio.

That’s what happens when you are a basketball prodigy, the most hyped, most talked about player of your generation. Talk that started when your generation had barely entered its teen-aged years.

Listen to his first high school head coach, Keith Dembrot:

“He can play at the highest level and there’s no doubt in my mind,” he told the Columbus Dispatch.

And that was after his freshman year of high school at St. Vincent/St. Mary in Akron, Ohio.

“He has the unique ability to know when to be serious and to know when to have fun,” Dembrot continued. “He’s a winner. What can you say? You don’t see 15-year-old kids do what he does.”

The hype only got bigger.

By the time he was a junior, he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated in an article called, ‘The Chosen One.’

It not only detailed how he already knew Michael Jordan – but had NBA sources saying he would be a lottery pick in the draft if he declared after his junior year.

LeBron clearly wasn’t just another high school hot shot. He was bigger than that.

But is he the biggest high school phenom of all-time?

Physically, no. After all, big (Wilt), bigger (Alcindor) and biggest (Ralph Sampson) came before him.

And there were those with bigger shots (ever heard of Rick Mount?) and bigger flair (Pete Maravich anyone) and – dare we say – even bigger potential to reinvent the game (let’s not forget the legend of Candace Parker).

And if you think the issue of the car loan his mom got or the flap surrounding a few free jerseys he got – which briefly made him ineligible during his senior year – makes LeBron part of the biggest off-the-court controversy, then you don’t know the story of Allen Iverson.

Associated Press
Lew Alcindor’s height made him a standout at an early age.

So as LeBron takes the court for this second appearance in the NBA Finals, say what you want. But appreciate how long he’s been in the spotlight – and how much (despite not having won a title … yet) he has lived up to those expectations.

After all, no one today is talking about Schea Cotton – a mid-90s streetball star in Southern California. He was LeBron before LeBron. Injuries and eligibility issues with the NCAA did him in.

And no one is talking about Lenny Cooke, either. He’s the high school phenom that didn’t pan out. The player some thought was better than LeBron. The player most now think was never the same after LeBron dominated him in a summer camp showdown. Cooke is now the biggest bust, perhaps.

But we digress.

The debate is whether LeBron is the most-hyped high school hoopster of all time. A group of Yahoo! Sports writers and editors picked a top twelve.

Who’s on it? Not Shaquille O’Neal. Not John Wall. Not even Sebastian Telfair. Not Mark Aguirre, Damon Bailey, Lloyd Daniels, Patrick Ewing, Grant Hill, Marcus Liberty, Jerry Lucas, Tom McMillan, Darius Miles, Alonzo Mourning, Greg Oden, Isiah Thomas, nor Bill Walton.

Remember, this list is about the most hyped – not the most talented.


12. Pete Maravich: 6-5, 197-lb guard. Salemburg (N.C.) Edwards Military Institute, Class of 1966

You think Cam and Cecil Newton were the first father-son recruiting package? Hardly. It’s been going on for decades in basketball – except usually the connection is made through an assistant coaching job rather just cash. There was Milt and DeJuan Wagner to Memphis and Ed and Danny Manning to Kansas just to name a few. The ultimate, however, was Press and Pete Maravich. Press knew he had a prodigy of prodigies and was only going to send him to a school that made him coach. Head coach.

The start of it all: Those in his neighborhood were amazed at the endless of hours of ball-handling, shooting and trick drills Maravich perfected, seemingly from the time he could walk. Word spread when he made the varsity at a South Carolina high school as an 8th grader. By the time he was a junior, he was in North Carolina as his father had taken a job as an assistant at N.C. State. His dad landed the top job at LSU two years later, bringing Pete along as his prized ‘recruit.’
Did he live up to the hype? In so many ways, yes. It wasn’t just the points he scored – his record 3,667 points and 44.2 per-game average in three college seasons will never be topped. But it was the way he performed. His showmanship on the court wowed crowds and made him a huge draw. His fancy moves and trick shots overshadowed the fact he was as technically sound as any player before or since. He truly was ahead of his time. For all his individual skills, Maravich was not considered a team player and struggled to fit in with his teammates. Because of it, Maravich never won – or came close to winning – a team title. It must be noted, however, that Maravich rarely played with teams that had any type of supporting cast.
One more thing: Maravich struggled to find balance in his life for much of his career but finally seemed to find peace when he found Christianity in the years following his career. He said he was never happier and that he wanted to be remembered as a Christian not a basketball player. He died, on the basketball court, at age 40, collapsing during a pickup game. An autopsy revealed he had a congenital heart defect.


11. Tamir Goodman: 6-3, 155-pound guard. Talmudical Academy of Baltimore, Class of 2000

Who? For a few months following the release of a story in Sports Illustrated that dubbed Goodman ‘The Jewish Jordan,’ he was the talk of the sports world. Sid Finch, the fictional baseball prodigy penned by George Plimpton as an April Fool’s Day hoax in 1995, may be the only other ‘athlete’ to get so much attention from one story.

The start of it all: That story in Sports Illustrated in February 1999 was the beginning. And it had little to do with his basketball skills – which were top notch. Goodman could shoot, dunk, defend – the works. But it was his devotion to his faith, his legendary 11-hour days of academic and religious study, his refusal to participate in any athletic event during the Sabbath between sundown on Friday through Sunday, his wearing of a yarmulke on the court that set him apart. Nearby power – the University of Maryland – offered him a scholarship during his junior year of high school.
Did he live up to the hype? How could he? A media creation if there ever was one – it was said he received over 700 media requests in a single week – Goodman seemingly had no chance. He never did attend Maryland, choosing instead to go to Towson State. He left in controversy after playing little more than one season, then played in Israel and overseas for much of the next decade. Goodman, now married with three kids, has never measured life by points scored but rather his devotion to his faith. For him, and those around him, he is a success.
One more thing: His devotion to his orthodox faith would have been a problem at Maryland, which regularly plays games on Saturday. For a brief period of time, it was debated whether the school could (or would) petition the Atlantic Coast Conference to avoid playing on Saturday.


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