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LeBron James changed the game as a basketball prodigy

LeBron James became a millionaire two weeks before graduating from high school when he signed an endorsement deal with Upper Deck that included a $ 1 million bonus

But he earned more money six months earlier on a cold night in December He delivered at this time the most momentous moment of his career – a game against the number 1 Oak Hill Academy, which was broadcast live on ESPN2. He finished with 31 points, 16 rebounds and 6 assists – quite standard for him in high school – and somehow managed to surpass unprecedented expectations.

Before that moment he was a curiosity. After that he was a bonafide product. It was James's first truly groundbreaking moment.

He has actually had a few more since then, but few were as indelible as the December 1

2, 2002. It was a big event in James & # 39; Life and a Center He played in both a book and a documentary film about his advanced school year.

It was the first time that ESPN had televised a high school basketball game in 13 years with pregame and postgame coverage at halftime and the cover story of ESPN The Magazine this week

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Dan Shulman, Dick Vitale, Bill Walton and Jay Bilas were on-site to name the game, which got over 1.5 million vi Ewers, the second highest in ESPN2 history at the time. Many came to watch as James failed, turned the channel and declared him a product of hype. Instead, James hit dunks in the first half and threw mind-numbing passports that said, "You mean it?" Screams of Vitale

The highlights that emerged from this game were repeated around the globe and James' Star became incandescent. This evening was probably the basis for the $ 100 million seven-year deal he got from Nike the following spring. James always got an impressive shoe deal, but after that night, the competing shoe companies decided they had to have him. Just three weeks later, for example, Nike founder Phil Knight flew to personally observe James to reinforce recruitment.

It was not the biggest endorsement deal ever, but this nine-numbered deployment of Nike (Reebok was right there with them in the bidding process) on an 18-year-old before the NBA even held its draft lottery this year remains one of the most notable offers in the history of American sports. James changed the paradigm for what a basketball prodigy was, and there is still no one who is so like him.

The list of James's accomplishments since joining the league is well known, but he continues writing his story and refining his legacy. This year, James will be the first player in history to be in the top 10 in all points and assists. This award will be a great honor, because he always wanted to be known as a playmaker and not just as a top scorer. He has the chance to enter the Top 50 of the total rebounds again next season. In the playoffs he is already the all-time scorer, second in steals and third in assists.

Counting statistics are a tribute to longevity, but his playing has not only affected the volume. James's off-court actions have set new standards and created new goals for so many of his colleagues, a form of respect in every profession.

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Yes, "The Decision" was aired for its bad taste, but the concept has aged well, players now routinely take control of their big career decisions and use elaborate essays to explain themselves James's personal essay in Sports Illustrated when he returned to Cleveland in 2014 came four months before the launch of the Players' Tribune

He was a long way from the first high-profile athlete who spoke out politically, but James's willingness to speak out behind social causes has encouraged numerous athletes to follow in. In 2012, when James and Dwyane Wade lost their T teammates in Miami Heat organized to pose in hoodies after the death of Trayvon Martin for a team photo, changing the way NBA players used social media

Nebulous as a "game changer" is inherently challenging because of the Games have so much nuance for them, and personality, talent and charisma intersect at so many angles. James has been called many things in his life and has made as many arguments as he has 3-point footage.

However, there is little need for debate on this topic. James' status as a game changer is undisputed.

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