I am sick of hearing about LeBron James. Yes, he is a high school basketball phenomenon. Yes, his mother took out a loan to buy him a $50,000 Hummer. Yes, he was given two jerseys worth more than the GDP per capita of a third-world country. But must we know everything about LeBron James until the day he signs an NBA contract? Unless James, in one sudden change of mind, decides to accept a basketball scholarship to play at Georgetown, I don’t want to hear or read another word about him.

The spotlight that newspapers, and particularly ESPN, put on James is more stifling to us, the audience, than to James himself. Every day and night when I open the newspaper or turn on SportsCenter, it’s LeBron this and LeBron that. ESPN, perhaps the worst victim of the LeBron virus, has televised not one, but several high school games involving James’ team, Akron Saint Vincent-Saint Mary. What ensues is as close to comedy as you can get on a sports network.

ESPN sends their A-team television crew to cover LeBron’s games. Obviously LeBron is the only player they’re here to talk about and he has not yet disappointed the national television audience. Yet while LeBron has shown amazing skill and poise in those games, the overall experience of watching a high school game is absolutely painful. When someone other than LeBron does something on the court, commentators like Bill Walton, who is already a goofball, sound even more ridiculous talking about the great passing ability of some sophomore teammate of LeBron’s. Does Bill really care about Joe Shmoe, the center for the Irish? Of course not, but by commentating on someone he’s never seen before and will never see again, he lowers the bar on sports journalism.

The madness does not stop there. Just a couple of months ago, ESPN college basketball analyst and resident wahoo Dick Vitale covered one of LeBron’s games and showered James with the standard Duke treatment. Then, when the whole eligibility controversy boiled over last week, I saw Vitale rip LeBron’s circle of family and friends for not keeping tabs on him. Vitale blamed all these terribly evil outside influences that were corrupting him. Obviously, Vitale hinted at the shoe company wars and the prospective corporations knocking at James’s doorstep for such transgressions. But Vitale also forgot to implicate someone: himself. He was one of the many media personalities rolling out the red carpet for James and elevating his ego up to the heavens. To criticize everybody but himself was nothing less than hypocritical.

Just imagine Vitale three months from now right before the NBA Draft:

“Hey this is Dickie V reporting from the gymnasium at Saint Vincent-Saint Mary. I’m here at LeBron’s senior prom and it is awesome with a capital A, baby! There’s Dru Joyce, the diaper dandy and LeBron’s running mate on the fast break. And now here’s the man himself, the rolls-roycer, all-world, big daddy. Oh man, just by the way he looks tonight, he is gonna be a baller, baby!”

It is amazing that, while all of the supposedly greatest sports minds and philosophers are caught up in the madness of LeBron, hardly anyone is looking down the line at the potential nightmare that lurks around the corner. It is certain that LeBron will opt out of college and enter the NBA. He will be the number one pick in the 2003 draft, but where will he go? Right now, the safest bet is Cleveland, which would not be good at all. Sure, Cleveland’s got some talent with Dajuan Wagner, Darius Miles and Ricky Davis, but they’ve also got a lot of egos and no true leaders. In addition, by being in his home state, LeBron would face the distractions of his entourage and other so-called friends a lot more frequently.

I don’t know the best possible location for LeBron’s growth and fulfillment of potential. But it would be a lot better if he were drafted by a team with a solid coach or a stable foundation of players. No high school player has ever shouldered the immediate dividends that are expected out of LeBron. With the continuing media circus and the growing hype, people will only be satisfied if LeBron is MVP of the NBA finals in his rookie year. For LeBron’s sake, the only way to cushion this hype is if he is on a supportive team.

Perhaps when the media actually starts worrying about this kid, I’ll listen. But for now I think I’ll hibernate.

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