SportsBytes #2.2

Rant off the bat...

LeBron James made his national television debut last Thursday, and the big question on Friday was, "What did we learn about 'King James'?"

Well, to be honest, not much. Those who've followed James for the past couple years knew exactly what they were getting from the likely No. 1 overall pick in the June draft. They saw him have an off shooting night, but he was explosive going to the hole, he made some ridiculous head-turning passes and, most importantly, he lead his team to a blowout victory over the consensus No. 1 team in the nation.

Still, it wasn't all good for LeBron. His defense was atrocious --- even his huge windmill slam came after he failed to get back on the other end -- but, to listen to most experts, that was to be expected, and I agree.

Imagine doing what you do best, but being forced to do it among people who are much worse at it than you. Human nature would dictate that you wouldn't try as hard, because you knew you didn't have to. To find out how good LeBron James truly is, we'd have to get our hands on some secret tapes from Michael Jordan's workouts a couple years ago.

Or just wait until he suits up as MJ's replacement for the Wizards next year.


• Last week was my week to bash ESPN, so this week I, of course, reverse field. "The Junction Boys" was just as hyped as ESPN's previous movie effort, "A Season on the Brink," but this movie actually delivered. Perhaps it was because this time we were more separated from the subject -- the Bobby Knight-like "Bear" Bryant -- or maybe it was because Bryant actually showed remorse over his ways in the movie and in real life. Or perhaps ESPN took what they learn from "Season" and used it in "Junction" to end up with a better product. Hopefully they'll consider making more movies, ones on par with "Junction," not "Season."

• The best thing on ESPN this week, however, wasn't "The Junction Boys" or even the LeBron James game (which technically was on ESPN2). It was the highlights of the Denver-Kansas City game on the Sunday night SportsCenter. Every move looked like something out of "Madden 2003." Did you see Clinton Portis hitting L1 and leaving a KC defender in the dust with a sick strafe. Or how about Dante Hall using the backwards spin-move to perfection on one of his touchdown receptions. Whenever I play Madden, I complain that some of the moves are just too unrealistic. Then I see something like that during a real game and wonder if Madden isn't too stale. You have to love the NFL.

Tiger Tracks

• The Towson men's basketball team is now 3-3 with three games left before the conference season begins. A 4-5 record heading into CAA play can be expected, but if the Tigers can pull off an upset of either George Washington or Virginia Tech, it would go a long way to establishing them as a force to be reckoned with in CAA play.

One player who could help make that happen, surprisingly, is sophomore center Tony Dixon. Last season Dixon was a gangly freshman who looked totally lost in college basketball. This year he's playing with much more confidence and a little more bulk, and it's making a big difference for Towson. His eight blocks were probably the only thing that separated the Tigers from a loss against Norfolk State.

So far Dixon has started every game, but he's only averaged about six points and five rebounds. If he can get those numbers up to 10 and eight, and keep playing strong defense, he'll go a long way to helping Towson go a long way.

eBay Item of the Week

• An authentic white (home) Hartford Whalers jersey ready for customization. Size 48. Buy it now price: $175.00. There are 54 available. Ends Dec. 21, 2002 10:35 a.m. PST.

Random Prediction

• As I alluded to earlier in the column, LeBron James will end up with the Wizards. The Cavs won't have lottery luck, and Stern won't put the fix in for the Knicks (too obvious). Washington will be a natural for the King.