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LeBron James High School Rival Confesses How Far Ahead Lakers Star Was From His Competition as a Teenager

Jay Mahesh Lokegaonkar

LeBron James wrapped up his 21st regular season with one of the most unique performances in NBA history. He finished with a 28-point triple-double in a 124-108 win for the Los Angeles Lakers over the New Orleans Pelicans and became only the fifth player in NBA history after Magic Johnson, Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, and James Harden to record 25 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds, and five steals in a game per As James continues to keep Father Time at bay and set new records at 39, it’s easy to forget that he was once the most hyped high school player ever and consequently had to deal with intense pressure and media coverage since he was 15.

However, the distractions off the court did not affect his game on it. Former NBA star Charlie Villanueva, who was in the same high school class as James and played against him as a teenager, spoke about how it was clear from the beginning that he would be a phenom and live up to the hype. During his appearance on the Run Your Race podcast, host and Dallas Mavericks guard Theo Pinson asked Villaneuva if he knew James would become one of the best players ever back when they were in high school. He said,

“Yeah (laughs). He was just different… Even like in high school, you can see like from number 1 [player in the country] to number [2], there’s a big difference. Luol [Deng] is my man, he’s a great player but LeBron was another level and everybody knew that. He was so much bigger, faster than everybody. He was a grown a*s man playing like a teenage game.”

Villanueva credited James for keeping his off-the-court reputation clean and not getting involved in malicious scandals or controversies. He’s spot on. Given the attention and media coverage, it’d been easy for the Lakers superstar to lose focus, but he never strayed from his path and exceeded every expectation. Being one of, if not the best player on the court has been the demand from James since he was a teenager and that hasn’t changed as he approaches 40.

LeBron James’ incredible rookie season


LeBron James was the 20th player to be drafted straight out of high school, but none of his predecessors or those who followed him had to deal with the intense pressure of dominating from Year 1 and turning the tides of a dismal franchise. He was dubbed ‘The Chosen One’ and despite having the world’s weight on his shoulder, he did not crumble. He averaged 20.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.6 steals and pipped then-Denver Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony to the Rookie of the Year award.

James’ rookie season as a player straight out of high school was beyond comprehension. High school draftees before the Lakers superstar who are in the Hall of Fame were nowhere close to being as impactful as him. Among the players in that exclusive list, Kevin Garnett was the only high school draftee who played over 25 minutes per game. He averaged 10.4 points, 6.3 assists, and 1.8 rebounds.

Kobe Bryant, inarguable the most high school draftee before James, averaged only 7.6 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in his rookie season. Tracy McGrady, the last Hall of Famer drafted straight out of high school, managed seven points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in his debut year.

None of these all-time greats came close to emulating James’ rookie season. Garnett was the only one among the three who made it to Year 21 during his NBA career. He averaged 3.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in his 21st and final season in the NBA. James averaged 25.7 points, 8.3 assists, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.3 steals in his 21st regular season in the NBA and is set to earn his 20th All-NBA nod. The Lakers superstar, as Villaneuva aptly put it, is a once-in-a-generation player.

Post Edited By:Tonoy Sengupta

About the author

Jay Mahesh Lokegaonkar

Jay Mahesh Lokegaonkar


Jay Lokegaonkar is a basketball journalist who has been following the sports as a fan 2005. He has worked in a slew of roles covering the NBA, including writer, editor, content manager, social media manager, and head of content since 2018. However, his primary passion is writing about the NBA. Especially throwback stories about the league's iconic players and franchises. Revisiting incredible tales and bringing scarcely believable stories to readers are one his main interests as a writer.

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