This youngster is LeBron James out of St. Vincent-St. Mary’s
in Akron, Ohio. James, a 6-8, 240 pound senior whom everybody
in the sporting world is predicting will be the number one pick
in the upcoming NBA draft. If he is, James will soon join a
long list of high school players who have forgone college.
James, a media darling already at the ripe age of 18, is getting
ready to make history in the NBA as he is expected to become
the first high school player to be taken first overall in an
NBA draft. When that day comes, will the signing mark a day
when the NBA becomes forever known as a childcare center?
Ever since Kevin Garnett left high school to become the fifth
pick of the 1995 draft, youngsters have been sprouting up from
high school playgrounds in every NBA draft. Some are worthy
of playing in the NBA, while others should have decided to play
college ball instead. This year is no different, as James is
acrobatically dunking over hapless defenders and hitting countless
three pointers enrout to grabbing attention away from those
who, by being just as successful against better opponents, deserve
it, the college players.
The talent that James sees day in and day out at the high school
level doesn’t exactly compare to the talent that college athletes
see everyday, and it’s not even close to the talent that the
NBA is made up of. More than half the players that James plays
against in high school will end their career there. Most of
the other half will fizzle out in college ball, and a lucky
few, like James will establish professional careers.
Just how good is James? James has been putting up gaudy numbers
against his high school counterparts, but what makes him think
he should automatically skip a level of competition? It’s the
media. ESPN and others have been pumping his veins with just
how good he is.
Whether he can play successfully at the NBA level is not known
at this point. Nobody knows if he can hack it with seasoned
veterans. All we have seen at this point is James dominating
little known high school players. If James is an emotionally
typical 18-year-old though, he must love the attention that
he is getting. If somebody is willing to pay him that much money
to play basketball he’s not going to turn it down. He’s going
to take it and cash in on his childhood dreams. The thing is,
James is still a child in the sporting world and has yet to
prove himself outside of the high school level. Let’s put James
on a top-10 college program and see how he stacks up. If he
does then he can move on to the next level.
The media needs to be a little more responsible. James can
see his mug regularly on the 11 o’clock SportsCenter while the
anchors boast about how much skill he has. James has already
received more TV coverage than the NBA’s own Memphis Grizzlies
get for their entire season, and has also graced the cover of
Sports Illustrated twice, the first in his junior season.
Once again, this is an 18-year-old student who is juggling
school and athletics and doing interviews with Deion Sanders
on the CBS morning show. What 18 year old wouldn’t want to be
in his shoes?
But isn’t schooling the top priority in high school, not athletics?
But when coaches, parents and the media are pumping young athletes
as “god given talents,” it’s easy for the student to loss focus
What’s next if James does get drafted, it’s going to get parents
thinking of establishing their own sports darling. Soon we will
see Little Leaguers jumping from 12-year-old baseball to Major
League Baseball contracts, Pop Warner football midgets being
recruited by National Football League teams. Parents signing
agents for little tykes that have a unhittable curveball or
for 10-year-olds who have a Jordan esque fade away.
So what were you doing at 18? I was working at Target.
Should athletes have to attend
by Yonie K Espiritu, associate editor
In mid-June 2003 the National Basketball Association (NBA)
will hold its annual draft. Expected to go first is an 18-year-old
phenomenon who may be the most hyped recruit of all time. Some
critics argue that if LeBron James does not have an opportunity
to play against college level talent, he may fail to achieve
Other critics say he’s not emotionally ready for NBA play.
The first critics are ignoring James’ talent. The second ones
have a misconception about education and ignore this young man’s
experience in the school of hard knocks.
Originally from Ohio, James lives in a two-bedroom apartment
with his unemployed mother. He spends the weekend visiting his
father, not because of custody issues, but because his father
is behind bars. His stepfather is an ex-convict as well, but
has been there for James so much so that he refers to him as
As a child he had a record of improvement. In the forth grade
he attended only 84 days out of 160 school days. In the fifth
grade, in foster care, he received an attendance award for 160
days. Today, he maintains a record close to that and has a 3.5
Over the years many young people have enrolled in college early
because they were more intellectually advanced than their peers.
However uneasy their transition was, as they tried to relate
to their older, more mature classmates, it was always assumed
that this would be the best thing for them. James is more athletically
advanced than many college graduates. Similar criteria should
Here is a young man who has so excelled that no high school
basketball court could hold him. Holding him back, as is the
argument against holding back other geniuses, could be detrimental
to his growth.
James has talent beyond most college basketball players. He
has a history of having to act as an adult in difficult situations.
And as far as transitions go, his cell phone already memory
dials the phone numbers of NBA superstars Antione Walker of
the Boston Celtics and Shaquille O’neal of the L.A. Lakers.
Another argument discouraging James from entering the NBA is
his physical capabilities. Although the 18-year-old stands at
a whopping 6 feet 8 inches, physically he may not be ready for
the contact that comes with the best basketball league in the
But that is probably the same argument that Kobe Bryant, of
the L.A. Lakers had to endure. Bryant, at 6 feet 6 inches is
a bit shorter than James, began scoring 22.5 points a game his
fourth year in the league, a feat that no rookie out of college
has accomplished. Clearly, Bryant’s early NBA experience made
him a better player than college would have.
James is good, and he seems to have his head screwed on pretty
well. He may be making a mistake, but if he is, he will learn
from it, just like everybody else. Although education can be
beneficial to anyone, James has been preparing for the NBA,
through hardships and practice, his entire life.