If you’re a basketball fan in your early-30s (or younger, for that matter), LeBron James is a person who you’ve known about for at least half of your life. It’s kind of crazy to think about — James has been placed on a mantle ever since he was a sophomore in high school as the next big thing, and ever since then, he’s managed to live up to the expectations that have been placed on him by just about everyone.
But before the MVP awards and NBA championships and the remakes of Space Jam, James was just a kid from Akron, trying his hardest to win basketball games at St. Vincent-St. Mary high school. The most memorable of these games came 16 years ago today, when James and co. played their first nationally televised game against high school hoops powerhouse Oak Hill Academy.
The good folks at SLAM remembered this occasion by tossing together a highlight video from that game, in which James went for 31 points, 13 rebounds, and six assists in a 65-45 win against the top-ranked high school team in America.
It was a bit of a coming out party, because even though James had racked up awards and magazine covers and had already been a fixture on SportsCenter, it was the first time a national audience got the chance to watch him over the course of an entire basketball game. That made it a memorable night for most, but as we learned on Wednesday, to both James and Jay Bilas of ESPN, the thing that sticks out in retrospect was that both of them had much better heads of hair back in 2002.
As someone whose hairline also sucks, the pain of wishing you had the hair you had 16 year ago is very real and extremely relatable. Fortunately things have worked out pretty well for both guys in the nearly two decades since that night in Akron.