LeBron James --- The Early Years

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Before entering his High School Junior season, a 16-year-old LeBron James ticked off his skill set for a TV reporter.

CLIP 16year old LeBron: I can score, but I can pass, too. I can rebound, I can do so many things to help my team win.

In this footage, there’s a little more hair on his head, and he hasn’t yet inked-up his torso with tattoos, but there’s no mistaking the familiar face of the legend-to-be. James attended St. Vincent / St. Mary --- a Catholic high school on the edge of downtown Akron. In this clip, he warms up with his teammates.

SOUND: “We ready, we ready, we ready …” UP & UNDER

This talented group known as the “Fab Five”. They played --- and sometimes sang --- together like a family that knew what each other was thinking. For James, the discipline of the basketball court offered a sense of stability for a kid raised in the projects by a single mom. Dru Joyce --- the father of one of the players --- coached the boys. He says they first got attention in a national youth basketball league known as the Amateur Athletic Union.

DRU JOYCE: We went to the AAU Nationals when they were 11 years old. We started taking them all over the state of Ohio and Indiana. They stayed at my house, many nights. They just had a bond

But soon, the media spotlight at St. Vincent-St. Mary started to focus on the dominating talents of LeBron James.

SOUND: National High school championship game; commentators praise James for slamming a dunk

Sports journalist Terry Pluto has written two books on James and his journey from inner city Akron to NBA glory.

TERRY PLUTO: None of them were prepared --- by the time he was a senior --- for all the hype. When he went on Sports Illustrated, it just changed everything.

James went to the NBA draft right out of high school and was picked-up by the Cavaliers in the first round. It was the story of a hometown boy making good. But, after seven seasons with the Cavs, a championship ring proved elusive, and as soon as he became a free agent, James left Cleveland for the Miami Heat in 2010. As a Northeast Ohio basketball fan, Coach Dru Joyce says he was disappointed, but doesn’t begrudge LeBron his controversial move.

DRU JOYCE: I understood why he felt he had to go. He had given the Cavaliers seven years. The team wasn’t going to get there, and he saw it.

In Miami, LeBron James and his new team won two NBA titles. During his time with the Heat, James married his girlfriend from Akron, and writer Terry Pluto says, ultimately, his new, domesticated life convinced him to return to Northeast Ohio.

TERRY PLUTO: LeBron has gravitated more towards a middle-class lifestyle --- he’s got a couple boys, and he made this decision based primarily on family considerations --- they did not like living in Southern Florida.

SOUND: Dedication of LeBron James Arena UP & UNDER

Last year, LeBron James underwrote a million-dollar-makeover of the St. Vincent-St. Mary’s gym --- from new bleachers and a gleaming hardwood court out front, to new locker rooms. Dru Joyce says he knew James would return.

DRU JOYCE: I always believed he was coming back --- I didn’t know when, but I believed it --- because, this is home.

 

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