With LeBron James still playing at an MVP level for the Los Angeles Lakers in his 18th season, it’s easy to forget that he was once a 19-year-old rookie who joined the NBA as one of the most hyped prospects of all time.
Despite averaging 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 1.6 steals for the year, James was not named an All-Star in 2004. He did, however, play in the Rising Stars game. The format has since changed, but in 2004 the NBA pitted the top rookies against the top second-year players. All-Star Weekend that year took place at Staples Center in Los Angeles, giving the eventual Lakers star his first taste of the city.
He spoke about his experience being a part of that weekend in L.A. and what it meant for his career and his family. “It was incredible. First of all, I’m a kid from Akron, Ohio, and I was in Los Angeles for my first All-Star Game,” James said. “That was an incredible moment for myself, my family, to be here.”
“Obviously I wanted to be in the All-Star Game. Still kind of irks me a little bit, but I got over it. It’s just being here, being around ‘Melo, D-Wade and the rest of the guys. Just being a part of the festivities, it was something I watched my whole life. I was like, ‘Wow. How great it would be to be a part of All-Star Weekend.'”
“For it to be my rookie year and in the Rookie Challenge, it was something I’ll probably never forget. I got an opportunity to wear some dope shoes that night too: the Zoom Generation 1 ‘Wheat.’ That’s one of my favorite sneakers of all-time, so I was just hyped. It’s a long time ago. It’s like the Mikan Drill, it’s so long ago.”
The Sophomores team — led by Tayshaun Prince, Amar’e Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, and Nene — trounced the James, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwyane Wade-led rookie team by a score of 142-118. However, it clearly was a remarkable night for James to be a part of those festivities at such a young age.
It continues to be rare for rookies to get into the All-Star Game. However, James is likely one of the players that could have been an exception.
James finding it tough to self-motivate
After over 16 seasons of playing games in sold-out arenas, James is taking on the challenge of playing without any fans in attendance due to the ongoing pandemic. He spoke about his mindset, saying it has been tough.
“It’s been extremely tough. You have to literally self-motivate yourself every single day,” James said. “It’s very tough, because you’re playing every other day if not back-to-back. There’s not much downtime, so you have to motivate yourself.
“Being here in California, us, Sac., the Clips and G.S., we don’t have the luxury of having fans right now. It’s very challenging. You’ve just got to have that self-discipline and self-motivation to know that you’re going out there and have to use your teammates and yourself to get the energy.”
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