Monday, June 9, 2003

LeBron gets on with business


Graduates, then heads to camp

By Jason Strait
The Associated Press

CHICAGO - LeBron James has his high school diploma in hand and is ready to begin his NBA education.

One day after graduating from St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, James traveled to Chicago to wrap up the NBA's pre-draft camp, making his first public appearance since Cleveland won the NBA lottery and the right to select him with the top pick.

The last month has been a whirlwind for the 18-year-old from Akron, Ohio. After leading his high school team to the state championship, James signed a $90 million endorsement deal with Nike and learned the next day he would be staying near home to play for the Cavaliers, who hold the top pick in the June 26 draft.

"That week was really crazy," James said Sunday. "I got the shoe contract the day before the lottery. My friends were probably more excited than me ... hoping that I was going to stay in Cleveland. It was real emotional for me and my family. I'm glad that everything happened the way I wanted."

So is Cleveland.

The Cavaliers finished 17-65 in a strange season that included their top player shooting the ball at his own basket to boost his stats and the firing of their head coach.

On Monday, Cleveland hired former Charlotte coach Paul Silas, who was fired by the Hornets despite taking the team to the playoffs in each of the last four seasons.

James has yet to meet with Silas, but he is familiar with the coach's record and reputation for developing young talent.

"I really don't know coach Silas individually," James said. "But I've seen the work that he's done for the organization, for the Hornets, and hopefully he can carry it on to the Cavaliers and be successful."

James did not participate in the pre-draft camp, typically held for players hoping to improve their stock for the draft.

Nor did he attend Saturday's media session for the expected top picks of the draft. He did have a good excuse, however.

James was graduating from high school. And just like his four years at St. Vincent-St. Mary, which included games televised on ESPN and others available on pay-per-view, it was anything but typical - not that James was providing many details.

"Our high school graduation was not normal. It was not normal at all," he said, laughing. "Our school is a catholic school, so it's supposed to be quiet a lot. We weren't quiet at all. We were laughing and celebrating a lot. You really had to be there because there is a lot of stuff that I can't really tell you what happened. A lot of inside jokes. It was just real fun."

James can afford to have all the fun he wants.

In addition to his deal with Nike, James signed an exclusive multiyear contract with Upper Deck trading cards. That deal included a $1 million signing bonus, and his contract with Nike is believe to be to be the richest ever offered as an initial endorsement.

Still, James said the millions aren't going to his head.

"Not too much has changed since the lottery besides knowing where I'm going to be on June 26. I know I'm going to the Cavs," he said. "I haven't done too much. My friends probably spend more than I do. I don't need too much. Glamour and all that stuff don't excite me. I'm just glad that I have the game of basketball."




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