Former Cavaliers head coach John Lucas revealed how the Cleveland Cavaliers once worked out LeBron James in high school.
James was tipped to be the no. 1 pick in his draft class, whenever he declared for the NBA. He built on his legend in high school, with his games being nationally televised in his junior and senior years.
There was little doubt that James was a generational athletic talent with the playmaking ability of Bird and Magic. Overall, he was as NBA-ready a prospect as high school basketball ever had.
Still, there were doubters about his real ability who believed they needed to see him against NBA competition. And thus, the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were tanking for the no.1 pick, invited him into their gym.
High school players are strictly forbidden from working out with NBA teams officially. The Cavaliers paid a league-sanctioned fine of $150,000 for this workout, but they made sure of the quality of their prospect with it.
John Lucas talks about the first time LeBron James on an NBA court
This workout took place before the 2002-03 season started, as the Cavs were deciding their course of action for the year. John Lucas was suspended for the first 2 games of the season as a result of this violation.
Lucas does not regret it one bit, noting the excellence that James displayed right off the bat:
“He was the best player in the gym that day, on my team. Ricky Davis, Chris Mihm, DeSagana Diop, all of our players, he was the best player there.”
James became the first player to be offered a shoe deal by Nike – straight out of high school. He was also paid a total of over $169.5 million over his 11 seasons with the Cavs – a pittance compared to what they raked in through James’ presence on the team.