If you've ever wanted to know more about LeBron James from his time as a high school prodigy to his current relationship with Michael Jordan — you're in luck.
LeBron's longtime business partner and one of his best friends, Maverick Carter, joined Chris Broussard on the "In The Zone" basketball podcast this week for a wide-ranging conversation that touched on a number of incredible LeBron stories.
While each insight into The King's illustrious career is worth a listen, one anecdote sticks out — the time a 16-year-old James played alongside some of the NBA's biggest names and met His Airness in "basketball heaven."
We'll let Carter explain.
BROUSSARD: "Now, we were talking once before recently, you were saying when he was 16, you guys would go to the famous 'Hoops The Gym' in Chicago and play with a bunch of pros. Tell me about that."
CARTER: "Yeah, he was 16, 'cause I was 19. He was going into his junior year. ... I was coaching his AAU team, and we were playing a tournament in Chicago. It was kind of before the world knew about LeBron. ...
"In the crowd was a guy named Greg Ryan, who worked for [Michael Jordan's trainer] Tim Grover. And Greg happened to be — he's from Cincinnati, still a good friend of mine to this day.
"So Greg came up to me and started talking to me ... and he started telling us he worked at this gym called 'Hoops.' And he starts telling us about it, and how he works for Tim Grover ... and he invited us over."
CARTER: "So we went over that spring and took LeBron, and we were just kind of, like, in awe. Just literally in awe. It was like this basketball heaven — this little building with two courts in it, a weight room that wasn't huge but had all the technology advances for weightlifting.
"But then during the days, all the pros would come in. Antoine Walker, Ron Artest, Jamal Crawford. All the pros: Paul Pierce was there, Penny Hardaway, [Jerry] Stackhouse. They would start rolling into this gym. It was like basketball heaven.
"They would work out for like an hour, and then they'd play. They'd just play pickup for an hour. And at the time, Michael [Jordan] was retired, and LeBron had never really lifted in his life. He was 16.
"And Tim talked to him about lifting, and why it's important, [so] he would spend like 10 or 20 minutes [lifting.] We went there every day during that weekend while we were in that tournament."
CARTER: "G invited us back, so we went back. We had to convince our moms to let us go back up. ... So we went back up, and we went to Hoops every day for like a week.
"And LeBron would roll into the gym, and all the pros would be there. Remember the Baby Bulls? Jamal, Eddy [Curry], Ron. Ron would show up to the gym with, like, no socks on and hoop. One thing about Ron Artest, he's a hooper. He forgot his socks? He would just hoop.
"But they would lift, and then they'd play. ... They'd play, like, pickup games to seven. And at first, it was like, LeBron was a 16-year-old kid. He couldn't get in the first game or two, because they're pros. They needed to get their work in. ...
"They knew who he was, but they're pros. Why the hell do they care about a 16-year-old high school player? ... But then Tim would let him in at the end of the run. And so when he was 16, he played a couple pickup games against like Paul, Jerry, and 'Toine. And 'Toine was fantastic, he'd talk a lot of [expletive], and play and do the shimmy. And Ron."
CARTER: "He was out there playing, and if you watch the game — he wasn't, like, dominating, but he didn't stick out. You didn't go, like, 'Oh, there's a kid out there.' It was, like, 'Oh, there's just another player out there.'
"He got a couple buckets, went up and down. He wasn't at all ready to defend. If Stackhouse caught it, he'd take him to the hole. He wasn't at all ready to defend. But on offense, you know, if you can pass, you can play. And he could pass, and he had the size and the ability to get [into the paint], and he got a couple buckets.
"It would be interesting to see how he remembers those games, but I remember them, for sure, as him not at all ready to defend. But he never stuck out either way, which is impressive for a 16-year-old kid. He didn't stick out like he didn't belong, but he wasn't dominating anyone.
"But he was getting buckets and making plays and kind of being the LeBron you know today."
BROUSSARD: "Do you know what that did for him? Did that do anything confidence-wise for him or anything?"
CARTER: "That's a good question. I've never asked him that question, but I wonder, did he leave there going, 'Okay, now I have a gauge of what it's like to be on the floor with pro guys.'
"There's little nuances to the game of basketball that normal people don't understand or see, and I'm sure one of them he probably understood from there was, like, when you're on the floor — because I've been on the floor with pros in pickup games. It's a different floor.
"When you're on the floor with guys that size and that length ... all of a sudden passing lanes, or lanes you thought were there, the court shrinks. So I'm sure that's one of the things he took from it, but I'd be interested to see."
BROUSSARD: "Now, you guys met Jordan up there for the first time, right?"
CARTER: "I'll never forget it. That's one thing, I know, he's talked about before."
"It was one of the last days, and we'd always be the last to leave, because we were with Greg, and Greg had to stay back, and clean up, and help him finish when all the guys were leaving. So it was at the time that Michael was, I'm not sure, he probably already made his decision he was coming back [a second time], but it was like rumors, and he was thinking about it.
"And we were getting ready to leave, and we were literally walking out the door, and this red Ferrari pulls down the street. And it was literally like, for LeBron and I, like Black Jesus coming down the street in a red Ferrari with a bucket cap on."
CARTER: "And he pulls into the parking lot, and all the players are gone, and I think was coming to just, I think he just missed the gym. So he came to talk to Tim, and we happened to be standing out in front, and it was like, 'Holy [expletive].'
"He got out of his car, and he walked over to us, and to me, it looked like he was levitating. He walked over, like his feet didn't even touch the ground. It's Michael Jordan. Like, it's Michael Jeffrey Jordan in the flesh.
"And I couldn't believe it. We went back upstairs, into the weight room. It was just me, him, Tim, G and LeBron, and he talked to us for like, 15 minutes? And that was the first time LeBron ever met Michael.
"Maybe even a little longer, and Michael sat and had a conversation with us just about basketball. And I honestly don't remember anything that was said in the conversation. I think he was talking to LeBron about being in the NBA, and being a pro, and giving him lessons, but it was, like, everything just sounded like blurred out to me, like I was listening to God speak."
Date Posted: Saturday, May 27th, 2017 , Total Page Views: 1268
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