Almost all successful people experience plenty of setbacks early on in their careers. LeBron James, who seemingly cruised his way from high school to the NBA elites, also went through adversity early on. None other than ESPN reporter Brian Windhorst, who also attended St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, witnessed a dispirited James and gave him a little pep talk.
The first witness
Way before the media started salivating over basketball prodigy LeBron James, Brian Windhorst was the lone reporter covering the St. Vincent-St. Mary high school team. Windhorst admitted that there was a standout on the team. But he didn’t know who it was.
The first time Windhorst saw LeBron play in 1999, the freshman scored 15 points in a win against Cuyahoga Falls. While this seems like an ordinary performance, Windhorst already noticed something in the kid - “you could tell he was different than anyone else.”
While Windhorst made those comments in hindsight, to say that the ESPN reporter is a prophet still holds some water. James dropped 21 points in his second game, 11 in his third, and 27 in his fourth. As a freshman, the 6-foot-4 LeBron averaged 21 points and 6.2 assists per game and helped the team snag a 27-0 record and the Division III state title.
The first disrespect
One could assume that these individual and team accolades were the first shot heard in the valley. It’s easy to imagine the local media and even NBA scouts suddenly keeping tabs on the freshman. But the reality is, that James was snubbed. He didn’t make the cut to the All-State Team. Windhorst was right there to offer some words to James.
“He wanted to know why he didn’t make it. I said, ‘Sometimes, there’s a bias against picking freshman.’ It was a mistake. Clearly, he was the best player,” Windhorst said, per Poynter.
“That might be the only time when people weren’t paying that much attention to him, and he felt under-appreciated,” he added.
True enough, James boosted his averages to 25.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 3.8 steals in his sophomore year. The Fighting Irish went 26-1 that year. James was named Ohio’s Mr. Basketball and was selected to the USA Today All-USA First Team, becoming the first sophomore to accomplish both.
Ahead of his junior year, James appeared in SLAM Magazine issue, which tagged him as one of the best high school players. During his junior year, James graced the now legendary Sports Illustrated cover, which heralded him as the Chosen One. The rest, as they say, is history.