As a child growing up as a sports fan, my room was plastered with posters. I had pull out posters from Sports Illustrated for Kids, among others that I had collected from the various University of Utah events I went to during the year. But there were two central posters in the room. They were the same, and they were very big, and they were my two favorite athletes: Tiger Woods (a post for another day) and LeBron James.
He sat in a throne, there were lions all around him. He was truly King James, and that Nike logo was right there in the corner.
Let’s go back to January 21, 2006. I was 12 years old. I went to my fair share of Utah Jazz games as a kid growing up in Salt Lake, and every single one of them was still memorable.
On this particular night I was selected to be a ball boy for the Jazz, which I was stoked about. I got my picture with a very young Deron Williams, and I got to pass the ball to some of my heros on the court. But on the other side of the court was the Cleveland Cavaliers.
LeBron was in his third season in the NBA. I knew who he was, it was hard not to, but I was still in my NBA infancy and I didn’t know much outside of my hometown squad. When he ran out on the court the crowd didn’t really know how to react. They had no reason to hate him, and he was destined to be an all-time great, it was an odd mix of anticipation and reverence.
Once my ball boy duties were over, my dad and I went and took our seats and what we saw was something to behold.
That night LeBron dropped 51 points on the Jazz, as well as dishing out eight dimes. I was in disbelief. I had never seen anything like that in my life. I vividly remember my dad and I giving him a standing ovation as he walked off the court, as did several others in the crowd. Driving home that night, the radio hosts brought up the fact that it was wrong for Jazz fans to give a standing-o to an opposing player, but I didn’t care. I had just witnessed greatness.
Ever since then, I have considered it an honor to watch LeBron James play the game of basketball. When I get to see it live, it is like poetry in motion. For someone so big and so powerful to move with such grace and fluidity is unreal. And when I finally got to see him hold the Larry O’Brien trophy in Miami it brought a tear to my eye.
I don’t talk about my love for him much. Mostly because everybody just wants to jump to an argument about why Jordan is better, but I will always love and respect what LeBron James has brought to the game of basketball.
Especially since that cold winter night in Salt Lake, he turned a casual basketball watcher into an NBA fanatic, and I credit that experience in a large part to where I am today.