LeBron James is doubtless the most hyped prospect in NBA history. The hype was so unreal that he played his first NBA game in a packed gym.
This was a player who’d been featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated at 16 years of age. James’ high school season with St. Vincent St. Mary’s High School was televised across USA. NBA fans waited for James to take the NBA floor with bated breath for over a year.
Brian Windhorst is now an eminent ESPN personality and a sportswriter focused on basketball. His rise through the ranks as a journalist can be attributed solely to his coverage of LeBron James. The former Akron journalist wrote this about LeBron’s Summer League bow:
“The Orlando Summer League had always been in a gym with no fans. For the first game LeBron played, they played it in the old arena that has since been torn down. They got like 13,000 fans, and charged something like 5 bucks a ticket. So Boston knew what was coming.”
LeBron James scored 25 points on his Summer League debut for the Cavs
The gym that Windhorst mentioned as the Boston Summer League venue was called the Clark Athletic House. This relatively small venue hosted a crowd of over 2500 spectators who’d beelined for James’ first piece of action as a pro.
LeBron did not disappoint at all in his Summer League debut. He tallied 25 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists for the Cavs. Asked about it a few years later, James said:
“Man, that was a long time ago. What do I remember? I remember the gym, the atmosphere. It was old-school and hot, and the fans, mostly Celtics fans, were right on top of you. It was a great environment, energetic, what you envision summer basketball being.”
But they ended up on the losing side on the night against the Boston Celtics. Undrafted free agent JR Bremer came up big for Boston as they won 87-84. But the praise for James had already begun doing the rounds.
He was a force to be reckoned with right off the bat. James averaged nearly 21 points per game for the Cavs, who ended up winning 10-15 games more than expected. The Rookie of the Year trophy was merely the first in a long line of accolades for King James.