Originally published in SLAM 71
The 6th Man: You might be wondering why, with the Finals going on and Mike retiring and the WNBA season starting, there’s a high schooler on our cover. Those of you who’ve been reading SLAM for a while already know the answer. But for those two people out there who don’t know who LeBron James is yet, allow me to explain.
It’s simple: LeBron James is the most pro-ready high schooler since Moses Malone. Yep, I said it. He’s more prepared than KG, Kobe, TMac, Darius—any of ’em—ever were. Mentally, Bron has already been hit with everything possible. He may not be going to college, but he’s probably already qualified for a journalism degree. Is he gonna get more attention in the L than he did in high school? Yeah, if that’s possible, but it will be more controlled. And physically, LeBron is already in NBA shape (look at the cover again). Remember how skinny those other guys were? LeBron won’t be a boy among men. And he’s got the game to match. Sure, the MJ jersey might be a stretch (for now), but the All-Star part isn’t. It’s a safe bet that LeBron will be on the court in L.A. next year for more than just the Dunk Contest.
In between my writing this and y’all reading it, the Ping-Pong balls have spoken, and LeBron’s future—whether in Cleveland, Denver, New York or some other Lottery squad—has been set. He’s the obvious No. 1 pick, has been since last year. He’ll also have chosen a sneaker company and become a millionaire a few times over before ever walking onto an NBA floor. That comes next. And in October, when the season starts and he does just that, we’ll see how ready he really is. We can’t wait.
P.S. Hall of Famer and eight-time All-Star Dave DeBusschere passed away just a few hours before this issue went to press. RIP.