James captured the attention of the nation with his incredible exploits in high school. Following a solid freshman year on a Division III state championship team, he put together an exceptional sophomore campaign in 2000-01 where he averaged 25 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals, in addition to another state championship. He was named Ohio's "Mr. Basketball" and USA Today selected him for the All-USA First Team, the first sophomore to be honored with such a nomination. He added to his resume by being first-team all-state in high school football.
LeBron's talents were becoming well known by the rest of the nation in his junior year, and eventually he would earn the nickname "King". As a junior, he showed no letdown and averaged 29 points and 8 rebounds and was once again named Mr. Basketball and again had a spot All-USA First Team. The team lost the state championship that year as it moved to Division II but LeBron's reputation was already well intact. His talent was great enough that James attempted to declare for the NBA draft as a high school junior, trying to adjust the rule stating that a player must finish high school to be eligible. He would be unsuccessful but it set the tables for a senior season with LeBron getting much more attention than any high school athlete before him.
"King" James was already on the covers of Sports Illustrated and ESPN The Magazine while still in school and was already working out multi-million dollar shoe contracts while a senior. The attention he was receiving was so great that his high school games were available on pay-per-view and some games were even televised nationally. While he dazzled people with his on-the-court play, his off-the-court doings were becoming as well publicized. He was under a great deal of controversy when he received a Hummer, worth about $50,000, as a gift that was percieved by some to threaten his amateur status in the state. A rule for Ohio high schools states that by "capitalizing on athletic fame by receiving gifts of monetary value", an athlete must forfeit amateur status. He was cleared of wrongdoing with the vehicle without punishment, as his mother provided documentation. He was not as lucky after accepting a pair of throwback jerseys, worth only $845 all-told, free from a clothing store. This would be a direct violation of the rule and he was declared ineligible on January 31st. The team was forced to forfeit one of their schools wins as a result.
Fans in Akron were outraged at the decision to suspend their native son's high school career, and lawyers for LeBron appealed the ruling. On February 5th he was given reinstatement by a temporary restraining order which blocked the ruling. He proved as good as he'd been before by scoring 52 after his return. James continued to wow fans with his play. By the end of the season, it was the same story, earning unprecedented third selections as Ohio's Mr. Basketball and on the All-USA First Team, also earning a third state championship. He highlighted this dream season by appearing at three high school all-star games, the McDonald's All-American Game, the EA Sports Roundball Classic, and the Jordan Capital Classic (which he had a $10 million insurance policy on), and he earned MVP honours in all three.
To very little surprise, LeBron officially declared for the draft on April 25th. He prepared for his professional debut by signing a contract with Nike for a mere $90 million over 7 years. Virtually a consensus #1 pick for the 2003 draft, the NBA Draft Lottery was thought of as the "LeBron Lottery". The hometown Cleveland Cavaliers had the best chance to get King James, although during his senior year he had shown issues with some facets of the organization. When the Cavaliers successfully drew the first pick, however, James had no issues with joining the team. Cleveland confirmed his selection as the #1 pick over a month before the draft, as well as finishing off contract negotiations in advance.
When LeBron makes his regular-season NBA debut in October 2003, he will more than likely be left with the task of almost single-handedly rebuilding an organization which had struggled with legitimacy over the past decade. It may be a daunting task, but LeBron's proved to be well up to the task before.