Unlike High School Kobe Bryant’s Scrimmage with 76ers, Pre-NBA LeBron James’ Faceoff Against Cavaliers Cost Head Coach 2 Games

Rishabh Bhatnagar
|Published November 20, 2023

Former NBA player and Houston Rockets assistant coach John Lucas had the opportunity to see both Kobe Bryant and LeBron James during their high school days. Lucas was the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers from 1994 to 1996, which allowed him to invite Kobe for a scrimmage with the rest of the NBA roster. A similar situation arose during his time as the Cleveland Cavaliers’ head coach (2001-2003), when he arranged a scrimmage where LeBron James played against the likes of Smush Parker and Carlos Boozer.

Speaking on the Fresh 24 podcast by Marc Zumoff, Lucas revealed that Bryant was close to being the best player in the building during the scrimmage and one could see that he was going to be utterly impressive in the future. The 71-year-old further revealed that while he was not suspended or fined for the 76ers scrimmage due to a lack of rules, the same was not true when he invited James during his Cavaliers’ days.

Lucas ended up inviting a media person to the Cavaliers scrimmage, who saw James train with the Cavs’ NBA roster and wrote about it. This publicized the news of the ‘illegal’ scrimmage and the league had to suspend Lucas for two games for arranging the meet.

It seems as if the likes of Boozer and Parker thought after the scrimmage that LeBron was only going to be an “average player” in the NBA. However, Lucas himself had no doubts and claimed that the players were out of their minds.

Subsequently, he went on to compare the high-school versions of Kobe and LeBron, claiming that while LeBron already was a “man,” it was Kobe who was more skilled. “Kobe was more skilled at the time. But LeBron was a physical ‘man’. But the skill and footwork, Kobe had the edge early. But just for basketball savant, LeBron James was really, really, really good at that age,” he said.

Lucas also revealed that neither of his teams got the 1st overall picks for the seasons in question. However, he was happy as he got to see two of the GOATs play back in high school, with both eventually signing for Nike. Of course, LeBron eventually joined the 2003 NBA draft, while Lucas was fired as the Cavaliers coach that very year. The Cavs eventually won the number 1 pick during the lottery and ended up signing LeBron, just after Lucas left.

Carlos Lucas has had a storied NBA career both as a player and coach

Lucas has effectively been a firm journeyman throughout his NBA career, both as a player and coach. He joined the league in 1976 as the 1st overall pick for the Houston Rockets and played for multiple NBA teams, including the Warriors, Spurs, and the Bucks.

Lucas retired in 1992 without a single championship and immediately became a coach. He started his coaching career for the Miami Tropics and eventually made a return to San Antonio as the head coach.

Since then, Lucas has coached multiple NBA teams including the likes of the Nuggets, Clippers, and the Rockets, all in the capacity of assistant coach. His head coaching stints with the Spurs, the 76ers and the Cavaliers have not resulted in a single championship.

However, he did get to see two of the greatest players of all time during the initial stages of their development, which is a special memory in itself. Lucas is currently employed in the front office of the Rockets after being an assistant coach from 2020-2023, according to Rockets Wire.

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About the author

Rishabh Bhatnagar

Rishabh Bhatnagar

Rishabh is a senior content writer at The Sportsrush. A 26-year old novelist. Rishabh has written 3 fiction books and is a voracious reader. He follows multiple sports, including football, basketball, and cricket, and supports the likes of Manchester United and the Los Angeles Lakers. Rishabh has been working as a sports journalist for more than half a decade, during which time he has worked for multiple organizations. He joined Sportsrush in April 2023 and hopes to have a long and fruitful time as an NBA writer.

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