All hail the ‘King’

You type the name and you get results.
Search engines like Yahoo! give you 1,020,000 hits while others like Excite get a laughable 92.
Askjeeves.com renders 562,100 while Google garners 1,160,000 sightings. Metacrawler receives a lowly 90, Altavista gets 1,020,000, and Lycos comes up with 562,100 hits.
Even eBay has 80 pages (3,979 products) revolving around him.
Just who are we talking about? Who is the recipient of such attention?
Well, can you imagine he’s only 20 years old? Can you fathom he was worth $111 million before he graduated high school? Can you imagine his school was selling season tickets during his senior year for $154.
On the cover of “Sports Illustrated” at the age of 17 with the headline THE CHOSEN ONE? Projected by “Forbes” to be worth $248 million by the age of 25? Be worth close to $2.5 billion to his team and sponsors during that same time frame?
Say hello to LeBron James, or as the sporting world has dubbed him—“King James.”
And it’s a suiting moniker as James already has left an imprint on the basketball world, and surely will continue to leave people tracking his every step while being compared to the likes of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Oscar Robertson.
But here’s a question for you—Is he already the best 20-year-old that has ever shot a rubber ball compressed with air into a fixed circular metal rim suspended 10 feet from the ground?
The answer is yes—a resounding yes.
And though his Cleveland Cavaliers, who finished with a 42-40 record, weren’t able to claim one of the eight available spots (after being almost a lock by the halfway point of this season) in the NBA playoffs, which started this past weekend, James did all he could.
He averaged 27.2 points per game (he can score almost at will like Jordan did), with 7.4 rebounds (he is Robertson-isque in his rebounding abilities) and 7.2 assist per game (he has better vision than Magic).
But did it all come too fast for someone too young? The answers are there in different layers—from his mid-school mythology to the bazaar that was his high school years. And if you look at the shards and fragments from his life, you can see how he has come to where he is (evolution only makes sense in retrospect).
It began two nights before 1985 became official in Akron, Ohio. There was no silver spoon in his mouth when he entered the world. He grew up without a father, and the lone dominant figurehead in his family was (and still is) his mother, Gloria.
Gloria was 16 when she had LeBron. She was scared and poor. And it wasn’t uncommon that she leave baby LeBron with other families while she worked to put food in their bellies and a roof over their heads.
But when her parents and grandparents died, things started to get arduous and in a hurry. They were forced to live in a condemned home for a while, before the Walker family took the James’ in.
And every Thanksgiving (even to this day when money is no longer an issue), Gloria and her multi-million dollar son still spend their holidays there.
LeBron can never repay the Walker family, for they put in his hands what he was ordained to play—basketball.
It was in the fall of 1994 when Frank Walker put a basketball into the nine-year-old hands of LeBron and would teach him all he knew of the game for the next three years.
By the age of 14, LeBron was dunking and winning amateur national championships. The acclaim quickly followed.
Using the already established St. Vincent-Mary High School (in Akron) gym as his stomping ground, James accumulated three state championships and a silver medal for the Irish while holding a 3.5 grade point average (ESPN even broadcasted some of the team’s games in his senior season).
And then he declared for the NBA, and one got the sense teams were losing purposely to seal the last-place spot to give them a better chance of getting the number-one pick in the NBA lottery.
And the team to claim his services? The lowly Cavaliers.
Poor LeBron right? Wrong. The instant the 6’4”, 240-pound man-child put on that #23 jersey (in honour of Jordan) attendance at Cleveland games skyrocketed by 6,791 from the season before his arrival.
Everyone bowed their heads—the “King” had arrived.
And he didn’t disappoint by averaging 20.9 points per game and being able to handle the pounding of the 82-game NBA season to lead the emerging Cavaliers to a 35-47 record (their season before him was a comedic 17-65).
He was named Rookie of the Year by a laughable margin and was far better than all the skeptics said he would be. And now he is on the brink of so much more.
With only two NBA seasons under his belt, James is slowly but surely passing into a period of becoming the best in the world at what he does.
“I just do what I got to do and go out and be myself, on and off the court, and take care of my obligations,” James, who became a father in the fall, said on his finely-crafted website.
James, with all the hype that revolved around him, could have entered the NBA as a diva—indeed the embarrassing idolatry heaped on him as an adolescent made that likely. Instead, his notebook-filling sportsmanship and head-scratching maturity have been absolute.
He has fulfilled so many promises that once appeared ludicrous that you can almost laugh at the headless circuit of his pre-NBA days. But he has arrived. He has made the leap. And not only from high school to the pros, but also from kid to brand name.
His talents have made him older. His dues have been paid in full and instantly. He feels the speed of it. He has come to understand it.
All hail the “King.”
emoutsatsos@fortfrances.com

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