Rivals High Senior Editor
Say what you want about LeBron James.
Seriously, say what you want – it’s all been said before.
|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.
|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.
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.
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.