Friday, February 10, 2012

10 Years Ago Today: LeBron vs. Carmelo I





It's hard to believe it's been 10 years since the first meeting between LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. On Feb. 10, 2002, 'Melo led his Oak Hill team against LeBron's St. Vincent-St. Mary's squad, in one of the most hyped meetings of high school basketball players ever. Anthony was considered one of the best players in the Class of 2002, while James was the no doubt No. 1 player in the Class of 2003. And while at the time of this meeting, 'Melo was dead set on going to college, there was already talk about LeBron's ability to jump to the next level.

I had the opportunity to interview 'Melo one-on-one about a month before this game, and he was very complementary of LeBron. It was clear the two were friendly rivals and there was no animosity between them. It was also clear that while Carmelo knew LeBron wasn't likely headed to college, he had no intention of going the prep-to-pro route -- he spoke glowingly about wanting to play in front of huge crowds at the Carrier Dome and how much he'd loved Syracuse's campus when he visited.

LeBron outscored Carmelo 36-34 in that first meeting, but 'Melo's Oak Hill team, stacked with eight future Division I players, won the game. Looking at that highlight video above, a few things stand out.
  • The game itself was played in Trenton, NJ, in front of a stunningly sparse crowd. It wasn't until the next season that LeBron was such a phenom that he was playing in front of packed houses every game.
  • I don't know what's stranger: LeBron with no headband or Carmelo with that hairstyle.
  • Also, LeBron had to cover up his tattoos back then, because of state rules, but it's weird to see how few he had. There's no covering paper on his forearms or legs at all. Now he'd pretty much have to wear long sleeves and tights.
  • I remember all the talk about LeBron around the draft was how he had an NBA ready body, but look at how rail thin he looks compared to now.
  • Seriously, Carmelo's hair...
One of my few disappointments with the documentary "More Than a Game" is how it glossed over this meeting, which was a huge deal in 2002. It wasn't televised nationally, but it was on in the northeast (again, for some reason it was in New Jersey), and I remember watching it. It was pretty clear who the two best players on the court were, and it's pretty impressive that 10 years later they've become two of the best players in the NBA.

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