Monday, August 24th, 2009 at 10:30 am  |  13 responses

SLAM #62

King James and The Kid.

Originally published in SLAM 62

The 6th Man: After much thought, there’s no getting around this, so I’ll just say it: LeBron James may be the best high school baller ever. Now, while Calvin Murphy tries to catch his breath and Big O gets up off the floor and Kenny Anderson asks P-Double for my number, let me explain. It all started in ’96, when Kobe Bryant was making headlines in Pennsylvania. KG had made the leap the year before, and Kobe was considering. So, come time for the McDonald’s Game, we headed to Pittsburgh to watch. To be honest, there was no need to see the game. Five minutes with Kobe and you just knew he was an All-Star in progress. He was relaxed, easygoing, funny…17 going on 30. Had the NBA mindset to go with the game. It was just a matter of putting on some muscle (and, uh, airballing L.A. out of the playoffs.)

But now. Now things are different. Last year, LeBron (he’s the one on the right) was named a first-team All-American by USA Today following his sophomore season. This is unheard of. This year he was named Player of the Year. Also unheard of. Akron’s Finest would be a top-five NBA pick right now—maybe even No. 1—and we don’t just mean on potential. Yes, he is that good. Sure, he’ll take his lumps, but look at him. Kobe didn’t have that kind of build until his third year. Next to him, you’ve got Sebastian Telfair. The latest (and perhaps greatest) of a long line of Brooklyn-bred point gods. He’s gonna be a junior next season—a high-school junior. Undoubtedly some of you are screaming “too much too soon!” (or at least furiously typing e-mails saying the same thing) and maybe you’re right. Maybe Sebastian (and LeBron, for that matter) will end up following Korleone Young instead of Kobe, or Leon Smith instead of Kevin Garnett. Maybe this will be their high point. There are, after all, no guarantees. But I wouldn’t count on it.

In real time, ’96 wasn’t so long ago. But in hoop years, it’s a lifetime. Since KG and Kobe and Tracy (oh my), the high school-to-pro leap has become a more regular route. And in prepping for that possibility, the top high schoolers now train like NBA All-Stars—hit the weights, shoot for hours, play constantly. Free from NCAA restrictions that keep collegians in check in the offseason, the top HS players ball all summer. More important, LeBron and Sebastian have the support (from coaches and fam) needed to get them to the next level. And, as good friends, they have each other. When the time comes, Bron and Bassy should be as ready as anyone. We probably won’t have to wait long to find out.


Russ Bengtson

Issue 62 LeBron Telfair

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  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Memorable! For me, anyway.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Tzvi Twersky

    Look at the headbands. (And the chains, and ST’s watch.)

  • http://www.slamonline.com James the balla

    Telfair is SICK. Lebron … not so much!!

  • http://slamonline.com Adam Fleischer

    LBJ rockin’ the adidas.

  • itai

    haha…sebastian and lebron will always have eachother to lean on…when bassy goes broke

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Great, great cover. I’m still a fan of both players. But…

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Here’s Bassy’s contract info for last season, this season, and next season. Guaranteed, of course.
    Not to mention how much he made in his first 5 seasons, or the $5-10 mil he got from adidas right out of high school.
    I’m sure the comments here will break his heart.

  • http://dillanleuyahoo.com Holy Baller

    If only he had learned how to shoot. Sigh.

  • jarrett

    this cover should give a lesson to slam. stop over hyping brooklyn players. bass is overhyped and so is lance.

  • http://www.newyorkshockexchange.com Old School Baller

    SLAM can you say the same for Adidas and the NBA general managers who entered into those contracts for the first 5 seasons? That SLAM article is the poster child for why the NBA requires kids to attend college prior to entering the NBA. You didn’t get the rankings correct but I bet you sold a lot of magazines by hyping kids who hail from a basketball-crazed city with over 8 million people . . . ain’t that right?

  • Rellboogy860

    Wow its been that long, I remember this issue It was my second SLAM magazine I ever bought right after the Tim Duncan ICEMAN issue. I had already knew about Sebastian Telfair through SI for kids or SI whatever.And I got into LeBron when St.Vincent St.Mary’s played Oak Hill on High School Sports Show. And that was mid 02 when they were saying he was the top high school player in the nation. Dude surprised putting on a show with 36 points. Now I’m still A fan of both. Big shout out to SLAM

  • str8 from samoa

    haha i stole this issue of my mate

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