The Commish Online                                                                                
LeBron Aiming For the Top Young Guns
January 15, 2004
by William K. Wolfrum

As Lebron James lights up the depressing Cleveland skyline, it’s safe to say he will have the best rookie season of any player directly out of high school.

As of now, James is averaging 20 points, five rebounds and six assists a game. More impressively is that the 19-year-old has fought off an early season lag that saw him looking and playing like a tired kid. Logging 40 minutes a night, however, his intensity is up and the Cavs are starting to get some wins.

Still, will Lebron be considered the best player to come straight out of high school? He’ll certainly be in the top-5, but still has plenty of work to do.

Here is the list, which I’ve spent literally minutes researching and analyzing, of the top 5, “screw college” players in the NBA:
1)Moses Malone
2)Kobe Bryant
3)Kevin Garnett
4)Tracy McGrady
5)Lebron James

The top spot is definitely a battle. Malone gets the nod because he’s already in the Hall of Fame and has a buttload of stats to back him up, averaging 20 points and 12 rebounds a game for his career. Plus, there was no better offensive rebounder in the game, and he still holds the record for most in a game with 15.

As much as I hate to slight Garnett, whom I feel is the best player in the NBA right now, I have give slot No. 2 to Kobe, though he nearly raped his way out of it. Three NBA titles mean way more on this list then one shaky rape accusation.

Kobe’s career average sit at 21 points, five boards and four assists a game, while Garnett is at 19, 10 and 4. Statistically you have to go with KG, but again, NBA titles are the thing. That’s why Scottie Pippen was laughingly chosen as one of the 50 greatest players of all time, when he may not even be one of the 50 best small forwards of all time.

McGrady’s career totals are 18, 6 and 4 and will raise yearly. At this point though, no titles and no appearance he’ll be getting one anytime soon. Plus, he seems to be more interested late of being a star then a player.

The Magic starting the season at 9-29 is just a horrible endorsement for McGrady. Try and imagine a Kobe or KG-led team going 9-29? It’ll never happen. Put either one of those guys on say, the Hawks, and Atlanta would have a 40-win year.

Which leads us to Lebron. The kid is unbelievable and starting to show his will to win, which is just great to watch. Everyone keeps saying how much like Magic he is, but there’s a lot of Jordan in his game as well.

I was tempted to put Lebron ahead of McGrady, but Tracy is and was light-years ahead defensively. I still remember when McGrady was in Toronto and blocked five shots in a playoff game as a second-year player.

Right now, Lebron is getting abused defensively, but in fairness, he’s getting guys like Ray Allen and Paul Pierce trying to show him a thing or two.

A shout out has to go to Amare Stoudamire, Yao Ming, Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki and Tony Parker. All entered the league as teenagers with no college experience and all are thriving, with Ming and Nowitzki being borderline superstars if Dirk isn’t there already.

I’m especially impressed with Stoudamire, who looked like he was getting a mental battering in high school by all the hangers on. In the pros, he’s been positive and by next year will be the best power forward in the game.

Behind them is Eddie Curry and Tyson Chandler, both stuck in the Chicago netherworld wondering if they’re forwards or centers and Darius Miles who is as tempting a player as it gets but can’t seem to put it all together.

Of course, there will always be the Bill Willoughbys and Darryl Dawkins, who came into the league with ridiculous talent but were unable to live up to the hype.

A lot remains to be seen with Lebron, but he has some work to do to get to the top of my list. If he can do the unthinkable – bring an NBA title to Cleveland – the No. 1 slot is his.

William K. Wolfrum is a freelance writer in Southern California.  You can reach him at