Lebron James 'Shooting Stars' Talks Life, Loyalty and "The Chosen One"
In his new book 'Shooting Stars', LeBron James reveals he learned a lot in high school. But they were lessons he didn't find in any text book.
Now an NBA Superstar and an international celebrity, he was just a junior at St. Vincent St. Mary's High School in Akron, Ohio when Sports Illustrated put him on the magazine's cover anointing him "The Chosen One", comparing the teenager to Michael Jordan.
In his book, LeBron says some of the 'celebrety' status was flattering. But it also took its toll.
"They compared me to Magic Johnson, as ridiculous at the time as comparing me to Michael Jordan" he writes in his book. He singled out Danny Ainge, the former coach of the Phoenix Suns, for saying he would make "King James" not simply a lottery pick, but the number one pick of the NBA draft.
"Ridiculous again, given my age and true stature," James writes.
He is also critical now of a schedule that had him and his closest friends and teammates travelling to play the toughest opponents they could find in their senior year.
"Was it insane for a high school basketball team to jet around the country?" He writes: "At the time I thought it was exciting, going to places I never ever thought I would get to see in my life when I was a scared lonely young boy. Now I believe it was excessive."
Lebron's High School Coach, Dru Joyce II may be the most prominently mentioned person throughout the book.
I sat down with Joyce II on the day of its release to talk about the revelations.
"It was something that you don't know how to prepare for" Joyce told me.
"We were on the cutting edge of this kind of celebrity for a high school player in the internet, ESPN generation so there was no-one to ask how do you handle this, how do you deal with it all so you just trust that you were making the right decisions, and we did do a lot of things to protect him"
Joyce admits he was the one who put together the cross-country road schedule LeBron now regrets.
"I did it for one reason and one reason only, we wanted to play the best teams," Joyce said. "We thought we were the best team in the country and if you believe you are the best you have to beat the best and the only way to do that is to put them on the schedule and play them."
"The other thing I took into consideration" Joyce told me, "is that LeBron was going to see all of those places that we played, but there were guys of 13, 14, 15 on the bench that were never going to get to Pauly Pavilion or the Palestra in Philadelphia and some of those decisions that were made were because of them.
"It wasn't about the money or anything from my standpoint it was about giving these kids the opportunity to see the United States outside of Akron, that some of them were never going to see and to this day some of them have never seen."
The book also reveals that LeBron and some of his friends experimented with marijuana.
Joyce says there were discussions about whether or not that should have been in the book, "but we wanted to be honest."
"We wanted the kids to see that he's a real person," Joyce said. "And he had real decisions to make just like the other guys. One of them (Dru Joyce III, a teammate of LeBron) happened to be my son, so those were opportunities to teach life lessons."
The book also reveals how disruptive the celebrity status became to Lebron's teammates and to his school.
St. Vincent St. Mary Headmaster David Rathz tells me he had never seen anything like it and probably never will again. His job in LeBron's junior and senior years became chasing people away from the school who were just trying to find LeBron.
"It was not unlike teenagers following around rock stars, in this case it was adults going gaga over high school basketball players."
In the book, LeBron admits he got swept away by all of the attention.
"Did it go to my head? Of course it went to my head. I was a teenager," he writes.
Although 'Shooting Stars' is about five very close friends and teammates coming of age in a most unusual arena, LeBron calls Coach Joyce "maybe the most special man I have ever met."
Of that accolade, Joyce says he is humbled. "Those are kind words that make you feel good. LeBron is a special young man and to have been involved and for him to feel that way about me feels good."
He says LeBron was the kind of player who took it very personally if the team lost or if all of the attention on him seemed to get in the way.
"He has always been one to shoulder those kind of things he has never been one to point a finger and say it was you he's always done the opposite and say what more could i have done.
And you have to respect that that's what you want anyone in life to be able to do, not just basketball players, but you and I. To be able to go through a situation and not point a finger but to reflect on what we could have done better."
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