SportsBytes #2.9 - LeBron James Edition

Rant off the bat...

No matter what you think of the LeBron James suspension, there is one thing I have to believe: not even the NCAA would have screwed this up this badly.

The facts of the case, as we know them now, are these: James was given two jerseys valued at $850 in exchange for posing for some pictures. Later that day he found out that might be construed as a rule-violating offense, and he returned the jerseys before ever playing in a game. After playing in his next game, the story broke. A day later the OHSAA ruled James permanently ineligible, saying he'd forfeited his amateur status.

Now, I'm not one to defend the NCAA, but knowing the facts as stated above, I can confidently say there is no way the NCAA would have come down as harshly on James as the OHSAA did, despite some early columns suggesting that this incident may have permanantly precluded James from going the college route.

In cases like this, the NCAA has generally required restitution (which James already did, by giving back the jerseys) and a short suspension. Instead, the OHSAA decided to punish James more for the Hummer than the jerseys, and in doing so, made themselves the villan here.


• Dick Vitale came off as quite a hypocrite on ESPNNews after the James story broke. He went off on one of his wild rants telling James that all this stuff, like the Hummer and free jerseys and the like, could have waited until after high school. Where was that indignation in December, when Vitale was calling a James game for ESPN2? It wasn't anywhere, because it wasn't chic back then to tell James to chill. Back then, everyone was just still marvelling at James's unlimited ability. Now we may not get to see it until October.

• Another one of the big losers in this whole thing -- aside from James's teammates, SVSM, and everyone who bought tickets to SVSM games -- is the YES Network. The network, only available in small parts of the country, is scheduled to broadcast the Prime Time Shootout this weekend, featuring some of the top high school teams in the nation. The centerpiece of Saturday's triple-header was the game between SVSM and Westchester (CA). They are even slated to rebroadcast the game on tape delay that night. Now the game is looking like one of the worst games in the tournament, and barely TV worthy. How quickly one player can change things.

Tiger Tracks

• How to relate LeBron to Towson? Simple. Towson is one of the many schools (320, give or take) for which LeBron will never play. Of course, that's copping out. How about this? LeBron is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick, but who's going after that? Well, No. 2 could be Towson native Carmelo Anthony, who played a year of high school ball at Oak Hill Academy, the school James's SVSM beat in their ESPN2 debut. Anthony played a great game for Oak Hill against his former school, Towson Catholic, in Towson University's Towson Center, a game I covered and wrote about in a feature story on Anthony. The Syracuse star is looking like a runaway choice for freshman of the year and a contender for player of the year, not to mention the leader for the DaJuan Wagner Memorial One-and-Done award (formerly the Marbury Trophy).

eBay Item of the Week

• LeBron James is only in high school. Yet there are already LeBron throwback jerseys (models from his sophomore and junior years). This one here is very nice. Currently going for $75.00. Ends Feb. 10, 2003, 10:24 a.m. PST.

Random Prediction

• LeBron James will play high school basketball again, and not just in postseason all-star games. He's probably just waiting to file his appeal as close to the Feb. 13 OHSAA meeting as possible. He'll play in the state tournament at the least, and probably in one or two more regular season games.