The first time I saw him perform live and in person, LeBron James was a senior in high school, drawing rave reviews for his basketball prowess and criticism for tattoos, throwback jerseys, a Hummer and an omnipresent mom.
He was the latest and greatest version of yet another second coming. Big and bad, but refined and respectful, he was said to be the total package on the court, maybe one day better than Michael Jordan.
The list of high school-to-pro guys who enjoyed NBA success had been small, but James was considered a sure thing – even more so than Kobe Bryant.
It was that last part that tweaked my curiosity – more so than Kobe. Really? That seemed hard to believe.
But here it was, an opportunity to see if such talk had any merit. As I entered the arena in Trenton, N.J., that March evening in 2003, it was with a critical eye. James had to prove himself to me.