No one had more attention or faced more pressure coming out of high school than LeBron James. The new Los Angeles Lakers star was anointed ‘The Chosen One’ by Sports Illustrated before he ever stepped foot on an NBA floor.
The pressure on him was unlike anything someone had ever experienced before. However some would disagree with that, and one who would is former Lakers point guard Gary Payton.
An Oakland, Calif., legend, Payton is set to be enshrined into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. The person inducting him will be his fellow Oakland native and the man he mentored at a young age, Jason Kidd.
In an interview with ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk, Payton deemed Kidd the first to experience the type of pressure as a high school player that James did:
“People don’t know, J was the first LeBron [when it came to the attention surrounding one player] coming out of high school,” fellow Oakland Bay Area native and Basketball Hall of Famer Gary Payton said. “He was good. Really, really good. In the Bay Area, that’s what all the talk was about — J-Kidd.”
During a time when players didn’t come to the NBA straight out of high school, Kidd was already drawing comparisons to the likes of Magic Johnson. He led his high school to two consecutive state championships, nearly averaged a quadruple-double as a senior.
Kidd’s presence even forced his high school to move games from their gym to what is now Oracle Arena and even was able to play in front of a national TV audience.
Payton experienced the rise of both Kidd and James so he is certainly capable of making the comparison. Both Kidd and James ultimately lived up to the hype and are future Hall of Famers, so they undoubtedly have that in common.
And beyond that, Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball has drawn several comparisons to Kidd for his style of play.