CLEVELAND – I didn’t go because I like to watch high school basketball. I didn’t go because I had nothing better to do on a Sunday afternoon. I didn’t go because I’m that curious about Michigan recruit Dion Harris. I didn’t go because I had never been to Cleveland before.

Paul Wong
David Horn

I went to witness the second coming.

The Daily had an extra press pass for a game in which Harris, the much-ballyhooed Michigan recruit, would match up for the fourth and final time in his high school career against the man-child who will likely become the NBA’s No. 1 draft pick in seven months. This was an opportunity. I had to see him.

I woke up hours before I would have liked to, to schlep across the frozen tundra of Ohio, to Cleveland State’s Convocation Center, to watch the Huskies of Detroit-Redford take on the Irish of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary. It was not at all my intended Sunday itinerary. But I told myself that if I had a time machine, and I could go watch Kobe or KG or T-Mac play in high school, I would. The schoolwork and the job hunt and the NFL playoffs – they all got trumped by LeBron James.

The scene you’ve seen – on ESPN, perhaps – or read about in Sports Illustrated. Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary has relocated many of its home games to Cleveland to accommodate the hordes of spectators that want to see the 6-foot-8 forward – the flamboyant, high-flying forward who wears No. 23 and plays well enough to justify the choice in jersey. What has resulted in Cleveland is less a circus than a royal court, on which King James serves as both the entertaining jester and omnipotent monarch.

James played an unmemorable first half. He was charged with three personal fouls, and displayed neither the playmaking ability nor the acrobatic gusto that has accompanied his play this season.

But in the second half, James went nuts. Steals and rebounds and dunks and assists and smiles and cheers and a 40-point lead. I sat there and thought, “Yeah. This is it. I’m seeing it. I’m watching ‘Shaquille O’MJ’ in high school.” He took over because it was time to; he made the boy’s varsity team from Detroit-Redford look like school children because he could, and they are.

Much has been written about LeBron James, and even more has been written about how much has been written. They say it’s too much too soon. They say our priorities are grossly askew when a high schooler’s games are broadcast on national television and he graces the cover of every sports magazine and yada yada yada.

I hate that argument. Sports fans grant LeBron God-like status because, in the world of sports, he plays like a god. If there were no market for his talent or his persona, then nothing would be made of it. They hype comes because LeBron IS going to be drafted, and he IS going to sell a lot of tickets, and he IS going to sell a lot of sneakers, and he IS going to become the most recognizable name and face in the country. We love basketball, and he will BE basketball. And when all those things happen, the search for young talent, and the attention that surrounds that search, will become even more outrageous. Get ready for it. LeBron was given a new Hummer by his mother, bought with a loan that was secured because of LeBron’s future earning power. Imbeciles among us criticized the James family. I say good for them – Lebron is playing the game. If everyone else is going to make money off his talent (and many already are – tickets were being scalped on Sunday for upwards of $60) then he is certainly entitled to something as well. King James is making the best out of a great situation.

At one point in the fourth quarter on Sunday, LeBron layed the ball in when he could easily have thread the rock between his legs and slammed it down, just like he did last week. The disappointed crowd reacted with a chorus of boos. LeBron was messing with them. When asked about the surprisingly unflashy maneuver after the game, Lebron told reporters that he likes to do the unexpected. Lebron was also asked to evaluate his performance, and he gave himself an “A-plus.” Mature? No. He’s 18 years old. Entertaining? Goodness yes. And if he’s enjoying himself, and we’re enjoying watching him, then I’m not sure I see the problem.

David Horn can be reached at hornd@umich.edu.

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