The Chosen One. King James. The sure-fire No. 1 pick in this year's National Basketball Association player draft. That's what basketball fans are calling high-flying high school sensation LeBron James.
The 18-year-old, 6-foot-8 phenom already is the hottest thing in hoops. His games for St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio, sell out college arenas. Some were televised by ESPN. Shaquille O'Neal, Shaq himself, showed up at one game. Experts say that when LeBron leaves high school he'll sign a deal to endorse a brand of shoes for $25 million.
So it's settled: LeBron James is going to be the next Michael Jordan. At least, that's what you would think if you believe the hype.
Not so fast. Being a big-time basketball star in the pros may not be as simple as that. Even for a high school star as talented as LeBron James.
You see, if LeBron James plays in the NBA next year, he'll be skipping a whole level of basketball competition -- college ball. And, as any kid who plays sports knows, skipping a level of competition is always tough.
Just because you are the star of your sixth-grade basketball or soccer team, doesn't mean that you can play high school ball. Plenty of Little League stars have trouble when they move up to the big diamond. It's the same with the pros.
There's another reason why LeBron might not be an instant pro star. History. Sometimes in sports if you want to figure out what is going to happen in the future, you have to look at the past.
So during the big snowstorm of 2003, I checked out the Official NBA Encyclopedia. It's a cool book with just about everything you would want to know about pro hoops. I found about 20 players who were drafted into the pros right out of high school. Want to guess how many of those players averaged more than just 10 points a game in their first season?
Two. Moses Malone and Kevin Garnett. The Phoenix Suns' Amare Stoudemire this season is on pace to become the third.
I found only one more player, Kobe Bryant, who averaged more than 10 points in his second season out of high school. Some other players who were drafted out of high school, including Tracy McGrady and Jermaine O'Neal, have become all-stars, but it has taken years for them to become some of the NBA's best.
So when LeBron James is picked first in the draft and there's lots of talk about him being the next great player, think about yourself trying to move up to the next level. And think about history.
Maybe someday LeBron will be the next Michael Jordan. Maybe someday he will score 30 points per game, be an NBA all-star and win championships with last-second shots. But maybe it's not fair to expect that day to be any time soon.
Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's Friday sports column and is the author of sports novels for kids. Write to him at KidsPost, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, DC 20071. Or e-mail (with "The Score" in the subject field): firstname.lastname@example.org.