Watching the Eastern Conference finals game 3 between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics and listening to LeBron James post game press conference about his passing brought back memories. It brought back memories of when I realised that LeBron wasn’t a regular 6’3 basketball player. It reminded me of when I first witnessed a child who saw the court through the eyes of a great. He was great then and he’s even greater now.
I remember telling everyone willing to listen about this prodigy from Akron, Ohio who was playing on the AAU team that I was coaching at the time. I was training Shareef Abdur-Rahim, and I remember telling him about how LeBron was savant-like with his ability to see the play unfold before the play had actually unfolded. No lie, I thought that his court vision was the closest thing I had ever seen to Magic Johnson – but LeBron was a relatively unknown kid in high school. As expected, I was told that I was crazy-but I knew what I had seen, and I saw Hall of Fame greatness in a teenage basketball player. So before the meteoric rise it was just those high school AAU fans and media got to witness the kid who would later be labeled the chosen one.
It was 2000 LeBron James came to the Bay Oakland to play for the Oakland Soldiers AAU team. Calvin Andrews the organisations co-founder and myself, coaching the team. I viewed myself as a basketball enthusiast, if I say so myself. The only thing I wanted to do was watch basketball and figure out the intricacies that made great players great. I watch countless hours of Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Larry Bird and others on film making spectacular plays on TV and VHS. I got to witness Jason Kidd live in the Bay Area when I was in high school, but by the time I got to witness LeBron I was astute in my basketball understanding.
Which brings me to whenI first witnessed this child prodigy; it was a scorching mid summer day in Las Vegas. I was sitting down on the bench in on of the Las Vegas back gyms and LeBron was leading the break. He had two defenders back and one teammate running down the right side of the floor. LeBron angled towards one of the defenders and without ever looking back with his right hand bounced a ball under the outstretched hands of the defender backing up and Maequise Kately came out of nowhere to catch the pass and dunked it. I turned to Calvin Andrews and said did you see that? He said yes. No did you see it before he made the pass. When you understand the game and how it would be best played you are able to see plays two and three patterns ahead. You can see the play develop as Kobe Bryant talks about in his TV series Detail, but I didn’t see that pass coming which let me know that I was right about this kid and he was special.
Now, some 18 years later I am still in awe of the passes that LeBron James is making, but this time it is not in the back gyms of Las Vegas high schools. It is under the bright light of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals. I am no longer being told I am crazy. People are saying he was everything you thought he was and more. The thing about LeBron and I that hasn’t changed, he is still making passes that I don’t see. We are all Witnesses to Greatness and I hope we appreciate what we are watching. God’s Work!