LeBron James was not your typical high school basketball player. For three consecutive years beginning in 2001 he was named Ohio’s Mr. Basketball. As a junior, he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and was dubbed “The Chosen One.” He drew crowds of fans, scouts, and media to his high school basketball games. Young and old alike knew they were watching someone special when they saw him play.
This photo, taken by Blade photographer Jetta Fraser, shows a line of fans in Toledo trying to get an autograph or a photo of the young man who would eventually rise to NBA greatness.
Taken on March 13, 2003, the photograph captures LeBron following the victory by his team from Akron, St. Vincent-St. Mary, over Tallmadge High School in Ohio’s Division II regional semifinals. His Fighting Irish played before 8,700 spectators at Savage Hall at the University of Toledo and won by a score of 82-32.
LeBron only played 22 minutes in the game because he ripped part of his fingernail off his right index finger while blocking a shot. He still finished with 19 points, nine assists, and six boards. With a between-the-legs pass, a reverse dunk, and full-speed fast breaks, LeBron did not disappoint.
Despite the 50-point loss, the Tallmadge coach was pretty realistic about his team’s fate.
“We were going against the No. 1 high school team in the country and maybe the best high school player of all time,” Tallmadge coach Jon Karnuth said. “We stood up and did the best we could.”
The Fighting Irish went on to win the state championship that year.
After graduating high school in 2003, 18-year-old LeBron was the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He played for Cleveland until 2010, and then, as a free agent, joined the Miami Heat. After four years and two championships there, he’s coming home to the Akron area, and the Cavaliers, this season.
And even more people will be asking for his autograph.
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