Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images
The Fab Four were childhood friends, allies and teammates—they were inseparable.
Besides James himself, the self-titled group included Sian Cotton, Dru Joyce III and Willie McGee. They were just some kids from the neighborhood when they began hanging out and playing for rival youth league teams.
By the age of eight, James was playing at the Summit Lake Community Center while the diminutive Joyce, known as “Little Dru,” played at the Ed Davis Community Center. The two of them began practicing together at the Salvation Army gym and soon became part of a traveling youth league team known as the Northeast Ohio Shooting Stars, coached by Little Dru’s dad—Dru Joyce II.
Cotton, who played baseball and football but had no basketball experience, was persuaded to join based on his size. When the kids were in fifth grade, the team qualified for the national AAU tournament for kids 11 and under, held in Cocoa Beach, Florida. They placed ninth out of 64 teams and afterward, returned to Akron with a renewed sense of purpose.
McGee, who had recently moved from Chicago to live with his older brother was next to come on board. The Fab Four were now in place—and they became best friends.
James would later write about his childhood experiences in a book entitled Shooting Stars, written with Buzz Bissinger and released through Penguin Press. Excerpts can be found in Vanity Fair.
After eighth grade, the four friends made a pact to attend high school together. The logical choice was John R. Buchtel High School, a predominately black public school with a well-established basketball program. In fact, there was a great expectation that James, who was now widely regarded as a star in the making, would attend. Joyce, however, feared that he wouldn’t make the varsity squad, even though his dad was an assistant coach there.
Meanwhile, Keith Dambrot, who coached both Joyce and James in AAU clinics, had become head coach at St. Vincent-St. Mary, a small, affluent Roman Catholic college preparatory that offered scholarship aid. The school boasted a well-known football program but its basketball team wasn't as highly regarded as Buchtel's. Still, the parochial prep school had a lot going for it and Joyce lobbied the others.
In an interview with Charles McGrath for the New York Times, James spoke about the decision to attend the school often known simply as St. V:
This is the place where all the dreams turned into reality. If you grow up poor and black in this country, you dream a lot, but you don’t really think they’re going to come true. This is where it all started — where I began to think I could do it.
At St. V, basketball standout Romeo Travis became the fifth member of the close-knit group which re-titled itself as the Fab Five.
LeBron and his teammates were soon making history. The Fighting Irish basketball squad won three state championships and a national title during James' tenure. Coach Dru Joyce II from LeBron's youth league teams arrived during the Fab Four's junior and senior years. After all these years he's still coaching at SVSM, continuing the winning tradition.
During James' four years at St. V, the team accumulated a 101-6 record. During his senior year, LeBron averaged 30.4 points per game, 9.7 rebounds and 4.9 assists.
Joyce went on to four years of college at the University of Akron, playing under coach Keith Dambrot. After college, Joyce made his way overseas to play Euroleague basketball. He’s currently the point guard for EWE Baskets in Germany.
Travis Romeo also continued his hoop dreams after high school, attending the University of Akron alongside Dru, and earning Associated Press All-American honors. Romeo has also enjoyed a successful overseas basketball career, playing for numerous teams since graduating college in 2007. He is currently playing for Khimik Uzhny in the Ukrainian Basketball SuperLeague.
Willie McGee attended the University of Akron with Dru and Travis, but stayed to earn his master's degree. He’s currently working for Oriana House, a facility for those with drug and alcohol problems.
Sian Cotton chose to attend Ohio State instead of U of A, playing defensive tackle for the Buckeyes on a football scholarship. He’s currently working on a music career.