The game took place in New Jersey, but featured a team from Ohio (St. Vincent-St. Mary) take on a team from California (Westchester). At the time, Westchester had a star player by the name of Trevor Ariza. He was arguably one of the best players in high school at the time, but there was another player getting a little more attention – and at least one more Sports Illustrated cover – at the time in Akron’s LeBron James.
I did not know this until last night, but when these two met in high school, it was apparently a pretty extravagant event. Obviously, anything James-related in 2003 was a big deal. I have heard rumors that there was some tension involved over James’ media coverage at the time; Ariza reportedly felt that the attention was undeserved. Both players were 6’8″ and doing damage to opposing teams. But when researching the actual game, I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit.
Already commited to UCLA at the time, Ariza apparently wanted to come out with guns blazing and put the 18-year old James in his place.
The game tips off. Westchester score first. Their best player, Trevor Ariza, throws down a dunk and as he runs back he taunts LeBron. SVSM’s star makes a couple of bad passes. Westchester go ahead 6-0. Two minutes have gone and the greatest high-school player of all time is playing embarrassingly and looks embarrassed. […]
When the quarter ends, SVSM lead by 20-14. LeBron has scored 18 points. When half-time comes, SVSM lead 41-24. LeBron has scored 35 points. Halfway through the third quarter the score is 66-39. LeBron James has scored 49 points. He is beating Westchester – including the noticeably more subdued Trevor Ariza – by 10 points. On his own.
This game took place immediately following LeBron’s brief suspension that followed the retro jersey scandal. Needless to say, he more than made up for it by putting on a clinic on Ariza – who finished with twelve points on the night – leaving the game with two minutes left to a standing ovation.
Oddly enough, James scored 50 points in the game that followed the Hummer incident.
If there was a game that I wish I would have gotten to see live, this one may be right up there. James gets dunked on and taunted. And then goes off for 52 points on 21-of-34 from the floor? His team won by 26 points, and thanks to a three-pointer at the buzzer (after James had been removed), Ariza’s team managed to equal LeBron’s output.
Now, it is Ariza that has made the headlines more recently after agreeing to a mid-level deal with the Houston Rockets; a place where he will likely play a larger role than he did in Los Angeles. I’m glad for Ariza; he capitalized on a great performance in the playoffs. But this post was more anecdotal than anything.
Sure, the Cavaliers (to this point) have not locked up any free agents that may or may not push us over the proverbial hump. However, we still do have one of the best players to ever play the game playing for our team of rooting interest for at least the next year.
We cannot control whether or not LeBron James signs a max extension after this season, but we can control whether or not we appreciate his game while it is here. Reading stories like those above only help me appreciate it that much more.
America’s Most Wanted [Guardian News]