I’ll always remember the first time I saw LeBron James play. I was on a bus headed north from Sacramento, California to Grass Valley to play in my own Varsity hoops game, and as a team, we watched LeBron’s SVSM squad face off against Oak Hill during the two hour drive. LeBron is about four months older than me, so I’ve always had a hard time calling dude “King James,” but right as he took the floor, Dicky V and Bill Walton couldn’t stop gushing about the kid, and I remember every one of us on the bus wondering how in the world he was just turning 18 years-old. He could shoot, pass, drive, rebound and fly, and it was pretty obvious that day that we were seeing a phenom right before our eyes.
Fast forward ten months and about $90 Million later, and that same kid was now the NBA’s freshest new face, facing off against a young Carmelo Anthony in his first home game in Cleveland. While he scored just 7 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out 7 assists, he also had Phil Knight, Ken Griffey Jr., Jay Z and Worldwide Wes sitting courtside for some added pressure. With a large bulk of the attention leading up to the summer being placed on James’ healthy Nike contract, the Swoosh made sure to put him in a special edition version of his very first signature shoe, the Air Zoom Generation. Designed by a trio of the best minds at Nike Basketball in Tinker Hatfield, Eric Avar and Aaron Cooper, the Generation famously drafted off of LeBron’s first car – the Hummer H2. The First Game edition featured a white leather upper with crimson ballistic mesh along the main quarter panel and midsole wrap, and it also had navy accents throughout to tie back into the Cavaliers’ new uniforms. With the date of the game, 11-5-2003, stitched into the inner collar, it was actually LeBron’s fourth game as a Cav, as they started off the season with three straight road losses.
Fast forward another six years (and many more millions) later, and LeBron James is now celebrating his 2009 NBA MVP award after rounding out his game with doses of defense, an improved jumper, and the best team record in the league. With a journey that began with more questions, doubts, hype and pressure than arguably any player we’ve ever seen before, perhaps I’ll begin calling him ‘King James’ afterall, as he’s surely come a long way since that early November matchup.