Since his sophomore year in high school, LeBron James has known what he was going to do with his life—play basketball and make a lot of money doing it.
Declaring himself eligible for the NBA Draft during his senior year of high school at Akron Saint Vincent-Saint Mary, college was never truly an option for James—it didn’t need to be.
The three-time winner of Ohio Mr. Basketball (2001, 2002, 2003) was a physical freak of nature in high school. He dwarfed nearly every other high-schooler he went up against standing 6'8" tall.
Unlike other physically dominating prep athletes, such as Kwame Brown (sorry to throw you under the bus Kwame), he could flat out “ball.”
His skills on the hardwood made people suggest he was the Air-apparent to Michael Jordan. James even donned “His Airness’s” No. 23, welcoming the comparison.
From early on his high school career, college basketball was out of the picture—he was that good.
College coaches knew it too.
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said that he recruited James for a little while until he knew he was too good to play at the college level.
Nicknamed “The Chosen One,” James didn’t get to choose the team that he would play for after leaving Saint Vincent-Saint Mary; the team got to choose him.
James’s hometown Cleveland Cavaliers was that team. They selected the 18-year-old with the first pick in the 2003 NBA Draft.
From the moment that the Cavaliers won the NBA Draft Lottery that year, it was a foregone conclusion that they would take James.
I don’t even think he had to work out for the team. There was no question; Cleveland was going to choose James.
Now fast-forward seven years, six All-Star selections, five playoff appearances, two MVP awards, and one NBA Finals, James has the opportunity to choose the team he wishes to play for through free agency—something he has never had the chance to do.
Essentially, James has been recruited like a high school graduate about to enter college.
He didn’t travel team to team; teams came to him, similar to how college coaches travel cross country to sit in the homes of prized recruits and sell their school to the recruit and their family.
Each team told James what they thought he wanted to hear, just like a college coach tells a youngster in an attempt to get them to come play for their school.
Only James wasn’t wooed with the promise of playing time, the academic prestige of the school, or the national exposure playing for the school would bring him.
No, teams wooed James with talks about legacy, greatness, loyalty, and worldwide exposure.
Following the visits, James most likely consulted his family, his friends, and acquaintances in trying to decide where to play and what would be best for him.
No different from what an 18-year-old kid out of high school would do when choosing where to go to college.
With recent reports that James plans on announcing his decision on ESPN Thursday night, he is even creating his very own signing day.
Presumably, James will be seated behind a microphone, his agents, friends, and family surrounding him, with six hats laid out in front of him.
And when the time comes, in five-star recruit-like fashion, James will pick out a hat, place it on his head, and crush the hopes and dreams of five teams and their fans.
However, in doing so, he will have uplifted the spirits of an entire city—the city in which the team he now proudly represents belongs, because “The Chosen One” has chosen them over all other suitors.
“The Summer of LeBron” is not about the NBA’s best player possibly switching teams and joining forces with two of the league’s best players.
It’s about a man who was forced to grow up too fast and never got the chance to experience something that most boys get to do before becoming men in the NBA.
He just wanted his turn.