LeBron James has gone from a 19-year-old high school kid playing hoops with grown men to developing into the best basketball player in the world and, arguably, one of the five greatest players in NBA history. But some of his teammates didn’t see the vision when the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted him No. 1 overall in 2003.
His old teammates Carlos Boozer and Darius Miles didn’t think James would make an immediate impact. In fact, they just saw him fitting in with a Cavaliers team that had won only 17 games the previous season.
Ricky knew, Smush was a little off the mark, but ooh wee, Booze and Darius must have been smoking something. pic.twitter.com/QvkVLmfvak— Adam Howes (@Howsito) May 27, 2017
Let’s go ahead and debunk some of the things his soon-to-be teammates said before James’ first game in Cleveland:
Boozer: “We have better players than him at his position already on our team though.”
Back then, James was listed as a shooting guard, but played facilitator, scorer, and wing defender. So let’s compare him against Cleveland’s point guards, shooting guards, and small forwards at the time:
LeBron: 20.9 points, 5.9 assists, 5.5 rebounds, 1.6 steals
Ricky Davis: 15.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.1 steals
Jeff McInnis: 11.7 points, 7.5 assists, 1.2 steals
Darius Miles: 8.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists
Eric Williams: 9.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.0 steals
Ira Newble: 4.0 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists
Boozer also said, “His potential is, probably, sky’s the limit for him, though.” Let’s call it even on this one.
Ricky Davis: “LeBron is gonna add to what we need and just make things a little bit easier.”
Now, Davis saw the vision. He saw a phenom coming out of high school who was destined to take the league by storm. And even though he didn’t go head over heels for James in this interview, you can tell he knows what’s up.
Unfortunately for him, the Cavaliers traded Davis 22 games into the season. After averaging 20.6 points per game the year before James’ arrival, Davis was sent to Boston before his bright career came to a close a few years later.
Smush Parker: “He’s gonna come in and make an immediate impact like a Caron Butler did for the Miami Heat.”
Smush didn’t even make the Cavs’ roster for James’ rookie season. He ended up playing in Greece that year before returning to the NBA in 2004.
But Parker was spot-on when he said James would make an immediate impact like Butler. Let’s compare the two forwards’ numbers in their rookie seasons:
James: 20.9 points, 5.9 assists, 5.5 rebounds, 1.6 steals
Butler: 15.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.8 steals
Parker gets this W.
Darius Miles: “I don’t think you can just bring a high school player in and really just think your team is gonna turn around like that. If he comes, he can just hop on our bandwagon, and hopefully we can do something big.”
HOP ON OUR BANDWAGON?!
Miles didn’t see the vision. That’s probably why the Cavaliers traded him midseason, too, to Portland.
The Cavaliers went 17-65 in the 2002-03 season before James was drafted. Cleveland more than doubled its win total in his rookie year, finishing 35-47.
That’s because LeBron led the team in points (20.9) and steals (1.6) — he virtually led Cleveland in assists (5.9) per game, too, since Jeff McInnis played only 31 games — and grabbed the third-most rebounds (5.5) per game.
James has slowly turned into not only just the greatest small forward of all-time, but arguably one of the best basketball players ever, period. Good thing he didn’t listen to guys like Boozer and Miles.