LeBron gives NBA snap, crackle, but will he have pop?

June 24, 2003|by TIM KOELBLE

Well, the NBA draft is Thursday night in New York.

"With the first selection of the 2003 NBA draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers select LeBron James," Commissioner David Stern will probably announce.

No surprise in Cleveland. It's just the official start of the LeBron-mania in a city that has a long, long way back to respectability in professional basketball.

Nothing like placing your hopes on a high school kid who by rights should be using his head and getting ready for his first year of college (at least).


Nope, the Cavs will fatten his wallet by the rookie maximum along with Nike's shoe deal, and the Akron kid will be on his way to buying Hummers for all his high school buddies (if he hasn't already).

The team will need every buck it can get. Season ticket sales have been bolstered, but the fickle fans of Cleveland will only wait so long for the James hysteria to produce a winning team, much less one that can manage to get to the NBA Finals.

James has been working out in Cleveland, up on the Cavs' fourth-floor practice court in Gund Arena. It wasn't until Friday new coach Paul Silas had even seen James with a basketball in hand.

I know one thing, and I am sure Mark Keller will agree, I certainly won't waste any time in front of the tube.

However, if you are an NBA fan and you were an owner with the first pick from somewhere other than Cleveland, would you automatically make James your No.1 pick?

With all the hoopla that will accompany James, as an owner I would be inclined to pick Carmelo Anthony, the former freshman sensation from Syracuse.

In my opinion, Anthony has a stronger all-around game. James' weak point is an outside shot that Anthony has. They both can do everything else. Anthony has that one big year of college experience - a different brand of basketball than high school.

I'll bet Anthony gets an NBA ring, or least into the finals, long before James does.

The Lineup Card

Remember the old days of baseball, and any other major sport for that matter, when you could name a starting lineup and even most of the reserves?

Not just for one year, but year in and year out.

Unless there was a dramatic trade, athletes would always be able to establish themselves as part of a community because they knew their career was going to be in that one special place.

The Boston Celtics - How many years did they have Cousy, Russell, Siegfried, Heinsohn, Havlicek, K.C. Jones, and so, so many others?

The Yankees - Mantle, Maris, Berra, Howard, Ford, Mattingly, DiMaggio, Gehrig and again, so, so many others.

How many NFL teams like Miami (gulp) with Csonka, Kiick and Co. had itself established year in, year out with players that wore the same uniform for seemingly a lifetime of their prime?

These days, teams move players in and out like stale food in your refrigerator. And most of them are stale at that.

Free agency put a word called "loyalty" into the far reaches of Webster's Dictionary. It's meaning is certainly not accurate.

A Refreshing Open

Jim Furyk winning the U. S. Open was the most refreshing sports moment of 2003 to date.

Here's a guy in his 30s, has won numerous titles in his career, now including a major, has the most awkward swing on the planet and is one of the most well-respected guys on the PGA Tour.

Hey, if I could copy that swing and be successful, I'd go for it.

Furyk, always taught by his father, plugged away at a tough Olympia Fields course for four days.

His demeanor is refreshing; his game has always been refreshing. He may not win another major, but he's the kind of guy you always like to see challenge and do well.

Tim Koelble is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2311, or by e-mail at

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