Special "LeBron!" Edition
LeBron James:
Heard of him? No. 1 overall NBA draft pick, most talked-about high school player ever (most scrutinized NBA rookie ever, too).
 
 
 
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
MANAGING.  EXPECTATIONS.

What will define LeBron James' success as a pro basketball player?

Instant impact? If he doesn't go out in Game 1 vs. the Kings and go for a triple-double, will he be a crushing disappointment?

Cultural relevancy? Media attention is 1,000 times what it was when Jordan entered the NBA in 1985 (but there are so many more distractions for fans).

Winning team? He gets a mulligan this year ... but for how long? Great players are measured by rings, not shoe deals.

But leave him be? To make mistakes, to grow, to just be a rookie? Sorry, not an option. Hype of this magnitude becomes a promise to fans: We demand The Next Big Thing.

The Stats
Want a preview of LeBron's season? Read the tea leaves of LeBron's preseason stats (per game):

Minutes: 32
Points: 11.6
Rebounds: 5.0
Assists: 4.9
FG pct: 34.3

What's it mean? If you're expecting 20-plus ppg, get real; NBA rookies just don't do that (last one was Elton Brand in 2000). Half-dozen dimes and boards, though? Not so crazy.

The Endorsements
"Be like Mike" is dead; long live the King: There's that totally buzz-worthy new Nike ad (let's call it "Frozen LeBron"), a line of "LJ23" apparel and new shoes hitting stores this winter.

But do the math: $100 million. That's a lot of shoes to sell in a stagnant retail category.

The Hype
Are comparisons to the all-time greats fair? Who cares? Check the list below for best-case/worst-case outlooks:

IF YOU DON'T HAVE TIME TO READ THE FULL QUICKIE
LEBRON'S THREE HOTTEST STORIES
1 Can he possibly match the expectations of his hype?
2 Can he make the Cavaliers a much better team?
3 Can he justify his $100 million-plus endorsement deals?
THREE STORIES YOU SHOULD JUST LET GO
1 The whole "Hummer" thing: Now, he can buy 10 of 'em
2 LeBron winning alone: Will take entire team effort
3 "Clingy mom" factor: Baby, as they say, is all grows up
 
Scoring
Best case: Julius Erving
Worst case: Ricky Davis

Passing
Best case: Magic Johnson
Worst case: Antoine Walker

Leadership
Best case: Bill Russell
Worst case: Chris Webber

Pop Culture Status
Best case: Michael Jordan
Worst case: Uh ... Kobe

Overall
Best case: Oscar Robertson
Worst case: Brent Barry

(As for shooting? Yikes, you don't want to know.)

The Schedule
5 must-see games:

10/29 at Kings:
Debut. LBJ enjoys 1st whupping.

11/05 vs. Nuggets:
'Bron vs. 'Melo, Round 1

12/25 at Magic:
McGrady puts stuff in stocking.

1/12 at Lakers:
Won't get glitzier than this.

02/22 at Knicks:
LBJ in NYC at MSG on ABC.

The Odds
An sample of LeBron bets you were able to get in Vegas:

2-1: Rookie of the Year
Almost a lock.

12-1: 52-plus pts in single game
Hmm ...very tempting.

41-1: 2004 NBA MVP
He only wears Unseld.

75-1: 30.1-plus ppg
Don't waste your money.

200-1: Cavs '04 NBA champs
Not even as a joke.

FYI ...
How other recent high school phenoms scored in their rookie seasons:

Amare Stoudemire 13.5
Kevin Garnett    10.4
Kobe Bryant       7.6
Tracy McGrady     7.0
Kwame Brown       4.5


Ricky Davis:
Stop shooting the ball, Ricky -- you're taking valuable shots away from LeBron ... we ain't paying to see you!
 
 
Today on ESPN.com
P2: Greatest NBA rookies ever
ESPN Mag: Reign Man
LeBron's New Shoe
 
Ranking his skills:
Passing
Where the hype meets reality
 
Pitchman
Who doesn't want to be like him
 
Rebounding
For a swingman? Excellent
 
Leadership
Team already rallies behind
 
Shooting
Still needs a little work
 

A few "Did You Knows," to impress your office-mates (courtesy ESPN Research):

Since the NBA went to an 82-game schedule in the '67-68 season, a team that has won fewer than 20 games the season before has never reached the 40-win mark the following season ...

Most PPG, NBA rookie w/ no college exp: Pau Gasol (17.6), Stan Miasek (14.9), Amare Stoudamire (13.5), Yao Ming (13.5), Moses Malone (13.2) ...

This ain't happening: Most points in an NBA debut - Wilt Chamberlain (49) ...

Triple-Double? Oscar Robertson is the only player in NBA history to record a triple-double in his 1st career game (1960) ...

Two No. 1 picks went scoreless in their debut: Yao Ming and Doug Collins ...



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