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When Danny Ainge named the only player he wouldn't trade for 15-year-old LeBron James

Celtics fans won't be happy when they hear who was the player Ainge deemed untouchable.
Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge and Vincent-St. Mary Fighting Irish forward LeBron James

Danny Ainge and LeBron James

Apart from being one of the best role players of his era, Danny Ainge is also one heck of an executive. The man was responsible for forming the Boston Celtics Big 3 that led the franchise to the 2008 NBA Championship. Ainge knows how to win when he dons a jersey or a suit. Around 2000 or 2001, Ainge showed off his keen eye for talent when he claimed he was willing to lay all his cards down for then-15-year-old LeBron James — except for one legendary player.

15-year-old phenom

Like most ballers, after their playing career is done, they usually head to the sidelines as a part of a coaching staff. Those with a talent for communication enter the broadcasting booth. Ainge did this after his stint as a head coach for the Phoenix Suns.

As related by ex-NBA player Rex Chapman, as early as 2000, Ainge was already eyeing St. Vincent-St. Mary’s LeBron James. Chapman said Ainge, imagining he was an executive, said he would do anything to get his hands on the kid from Akron. Everything was up for the taking, except for Kobe Bryant.

I was just finishing playing in 2000 and I remember Danny Ainge was he was doing TV stuff but he was watching players also and I asked him if there was anybody out there this was 2000, 2001,” Chapman said, per The Rich Eisen Show.

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He said, ‘There’s a kid named LeBron James in Akron, Ohio… I would trade everyone in the league for LeBron, with the exception of Kobe.

This was several years before the hype machine swallowed LeBron James and churned him out as the Chosen One. Ainge was ahead of the curve, both the media and the NBA scouts.

Dual purpose

This is an interesting tidbit about Ainge’s career. In a way, it mirrors Steve Kerr’s as the Golden State Warriors coach was a longtime broadcaster before becoming an executive, then a coach.

Serving as a broadcaster served a dual purpose that may have benefited Ainge. After all, the job entails watching the basketball games — from tip-off to the final buzzer. Commentators put the game and its players under a magnifying glass and explain it to the audience. This trains their observation and communication skills, which are imperative in any occupation, especially if you’re an NBA executive.

It also shows how winning is Ainge’s top priority. Yes, he was a member of the Celtics — the Lakers’ archrivals. But team colors become trivial matters when it comes to winning. Kobe had Purple and Gold running through his veins, but Ainge knows that if you had the Mamba on your team, you always had a shot at winning the title.

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