Three years ago, I was assigned a story for the magazine about a high-school basketball game between Mater Dei and St. Benedict's. The magazine does not usually feature high-school basketball, but this was no ordinary game. Mater Dei, in Southern California, was 23-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation. St. Benedict's, in New Jersey, was 19-0 and ranked No. 2. They were meeting at Mater Dei, in something called the Nike Extravaganza, which one college scout compared to the Super Bowl. The teams combined for more than 10 Division-I prospects, with two committed to North Carolina, two to Texas, and others to UCLA, USC, Stanford and Pittsburgh. St. Benedict's best player was a precocious power forward named Tristan Thompson who called the showdown "the top of the mountain."
The lottery was fun for a while.
Some draft buzz as the big day nears...
Don't be fooled by the calendar.
When last we left Dan Gilbert, he appeared to have lost his mind, along with the minds of anybody within three miles of him. LeBron James had left Gilbert's Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat -- I don't remember the details, but I vaguely recall the announcement being televised in some way -- and Gilbert was livid. He wrote one of the great letters in the history of sports, an angry screed that included this passage:
Redemption came quickly for the Cleveland Cavaliers in Tuesday's NBA draft lottery.
The Cleveland Cavaliers stink like old diapers dipped in sewage. They are so bad they lose their practices. (Average score: Starters negative-12, Backups negative-38.) They aren't just bad, they're toxic. When they watch Hoosiers, Hickory High loses.
This is a terrible admission, but it's fun to write about losers. While covering a bad team over the course of a season is a drag -- kind of like having a lingering sore throat and raspy cough -- stopping in to sample relentless, mind-numbing, appalling atrociousness on a temporary basis is a pleasant diversion.
The success of last year ricochets back upon the Cavaliers today. Last year, they were 34-11 and headed for the league's best record, and now they're 8-37 on their way to No. 1 in the lottery. One year ago, they were running off 13 straight victories, and now they've suffered 18 straight losses and a franchise record of 22 in a row on the road.
1. "The Decision." Two years of speculation heightened the buzz around the ultimate free-agent destination of LeBron James. And then the self-indulgent idea of crassly announcing his departure from his hometown Cavaliers on live TV detonated the hype at the expense of James' good name. Someday, we will look back and realize the notoriety of last summer served more than anything to raise his profile, which will mean ever more attention for James should he win a championship in Miami alongside fellow free agents Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, whose group machinations resulted in an unprecedented coup for Heat president Pat Riley. The whole extended episode of LeBron's escape from Cleveland -- the long build-up, launch and instantaneous crash -- can be viewed as his attempt to leap the Snake River Canyon. It had two results: He lost control of his fame, and he became more famous than ever.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh head to New York for a date with the Knicks on Friday.
The worst is over. LeBron James was supposed to be in fear for his safety when he led his new team into his old, angry city Thursday night. Now that he has gone back to Cleveland again and responded with his best game of this notorious season, he can say with confidence that the role of villain isn't so bad. He has nothing left to fear. What could be worse than subjecting oneself to tens of thousands of newly sworn enemies?
Despite fan protests, the NBA star led his new team, the Miami Heat, to an 118-90 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers
CLEVELAND -- Well, that was not what they wanted.
LeBron James is going home to Cleveland Thursday night wearing a Miami Heat jersey, and no less an authority than the basketball-loving president of the United States predicts a rough night.
Fans react to LeBron James' return to Cleveland as a Miami Heat player.
1. Mark Pain, sports photographer, Mail on Sunday (U.K.): Along with creating one of the most memorable images in recent history -- Tiger Woods shanking a ball during the Ryder Cup directly into his camera -- Pain also created a global phenomenon thanks to a mustachioed mystery man with a cigar in the background of his photo. The famed face in the crowd -- now identified as 30-year-old South London-based investment analyst Rupesh Shingadia -- created a Photoshopping sensation worldwide and entered the phrase "Cigar Guy" into our lexicon. How did the photographer land the shot? Click here for Pain's interview with CBS' The Early Show.
The new-look Miami Heat recorded their first win of the NBA season on Wednesday, but their conquerors in the opening round the Boston Celtics could not back up the victory.
LeBron James would be open to returning to Cleveland and playing for the Cavaliers, the same team whose fans were shown burning his jersey after his one-hour "Decision" on ESPN.
AKRON, Ohio (AP) -- LeBron James finally thanked his fans in Cleveland on Saturday, making his first public appearance since he left the Cavaliers for the Miami Heat.
Dan Gilbert had cooled down when we spoke Saturday morning.
LAS VEGAS -- His smile stretched from ear-to-ear, the kind of look often seen on the face of a coach watching his team play for the first time. Flanked by a pair of assistants, freshly minted Cleveland coach Byron Scott looked on intently from his courtside seat as a group of players comprised mostly of Cavaliers wannabes endeavored to catch his eye. So enthused was Scott on this day that it was easy to forget he had just taken on the most difficult coaching job in the NBA.
He didn't raise his voice or slam his fist. He didn't resort to theatrics during a 30-minute press briefing on Monday. NBA commissioner David Stern didn't once look annoyed. But his message to the players' union on Monday couldn't have been clearer: Get ready to makes some concessions, because what's going on now simply isn't going to go on much longer.
The NBA has fined the Cleveland Cavaliers owner $100,000 for remarks he made after LeBron James announced he was leaving the team.
Rev. Jesse Jackson gets fired up over Dan Gilbert's comments about LeBron James' move.
LeBron James is a grown man who made a grownup decision to take his massive basketball-playing ability from Cleveland to Miami in a desire to get the one thing every true baller desires: the opportunity to call yourself a champion.
They will still say his name in Cleveland, only this time the words that accompany it will lack the usual PG rating. The man who once ruled greater Ohio is now a veritable pariah in his home state, a belief proved by wild-eyed fans doing drive-bys at his house and burning his jerseys, with only an armed police force preventing an angry mob from tearing down the massive Nike billboard bearing his likeness.
George Steinbrenner is from Cleveland, and I like to think he served as an inspiration to Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. As you have probably heard, Gilbert wrote a letter to Cavs fans after LeBron James announced on national TV that he was bolting for Miami. If you haven't read it, then believe me: This is the greatest letter ever written. Also, it is completely insane.
NBA superstar LeBron James arrived in the Miami area Friday, the morning after he spurned the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat.
NBA star LeBron James goes to Miami after announcing his long-awaitied decision to join the Miami Heat. WPLG reports.
LeBron James has redefined himself with his widely anticipated, and nonetheless, shocking decision to join the Miami Heat. In years to come, he promises to play less like Michael Jordan and perform more like an open-floor version of Magic Johnson, as he creates plays for Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
The 2010 NBA free agency period began at 12:01 a.m. on July 1 with players allowed to officially sign with teams on July 8. Here's all the latest news and rumors to keep you up to speed with this summer's elite free-agent class.
I read the anonymous reports that LeBron James will sign with the Miami Heat and I don't believe them.
LeBron James' free agency has been the ultimate sports story for the Twitter age: constant updates, very little new information. The league thinks he's going to Chicago! Pat Riley is angling for him! The Nets want him to have his own Russian province! The Knicks heard he loves pretzels that taste like soot!
This is an attempt to make sense of the market, which has been boiled down to four big names remaining in the pot (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Carlos Boozer), five teams with max cap space (Miami, New Jersey, Chicago, New York and the Clippers) as well as the franchise with the most to lose (Cleveland). James will announce his decision Thursday night at 9 p.m. on ESPN, and my reading is that he will be left to choose from as many as three compelling teams that clearly are offering him the best opportunity to win -- and winning has always been the No. 1 criterion, according to James himself.
At 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, the most anticipated free-agent class in NBA history will hit the market. Representatives from a number of teams will dispatch representatives all around the country in a recruiting war that will blow any college process out of the water. Seven teams figure to be the biggest players. Let's examine what each has to offer.
At long last, July 2010 is almost upon us. By the middle of the month, the most dynamic free-agent class of modern times will have been dispersed. Here's what to look for in the meantime (all figures are based on a projected salary cap of $56.1 million):
Is Tom Izzo the choice for Cleveland? I'm not so sure.
1. Buzz Bissinger: It's probably safe to say Bissinger is the only Pulitzer Prize winner on Twitter who uses the term "douche juice" on a regular basis. He also curses. A lot. And he makes no bleeping apologies for it. "That's the way I talk," Bissinger said. "I use the f-bomb more than anyone I know except my deceased father. I use the word f*** a lot. A lot of people have called me angry in my life, including my wives and Steve Wynn. I get really, really heated about things very easily." That makes him a perfect candidate to follow on Twitter.
Two-time NBA MVP LeBron James says the Cleveland Cavaliers -- his only club in his seven pro seasons -- will have an "edge" when they try to keep the likely free-agent-to-be from leaving this summer.
For his 25th Anniversary, Larry King talks to basketball's LeBron James. See the full interview Friday at 9 p.m. ET.
Earlier this season, Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James said that he was switching his jersey from No. 23 to No. 6 because he wanted to honor Hall of Famer Michael Jordan.
There is a tall, bald African-American man skipping right about now.
Brian Windhorst falls asleep next to his iPhone most nights, and when it's not snuggled up next to him, it sits five feet away on his nightstand. When you are ground zero for LeBron James news in Cleveland, a city at DEFCON 1 with the two-time NBA MVP poised to enter the land of free agency on July 1, you give up the luxury of a night of a restful sleep.
OK, people, now can you give the Boston Celtics a little credit?
This looked like the Cavaliers' year, but in six games they were divided and dominated by Boston. Will their ultimate championship hopes now be dismantled by LeBron James? You might not have heard about this, but he will be a free agent July 1.
My condolences, Cleveland. Another one of your teams blew it again. Choked. Spit the bit, gripped and gagged.
The clock ticks down -- 56 seconds ... 55 seconds ... 54 seconds -- and Mike Brown waves his arms, and his players just stand there. They just bleeping stand there. You know they're not going to win. I know they're not going to win. Boston is beating Cleveland by nine, and that's too much. There are no miracles left, not for this disappointing Cleveland team, not for this wooden version of LeBron James. They are not going to win, not tonight. I know that, everybody knows that. But they just stand there. They just bleeping stand there.
LeBron James' performance Tuesday night in Cleveland was one of the most puzzling things I've ever seen. Here it was, a crucial Game 5 against the Boston Celtics. The game was in Cleveland, and even on television it was apparent that the court was surrounded by insane emotions -- the expectation of victory, the hangover of 45-plus years of sports heartbreak, the hatred of the Celtics and all their victories, the lingering worry that LeBron himself might walk away when the season ends.
BOSTON -- LeBron James sat in his corner locker room stall with his feet in a bucket of ice water. The evening's box score floated on top of the water-like debris. James leaned down to read the awful truths facing him over the long early summer ahead -- the nine turnovers he was forced to commit in 46 minutes of play, as well as his triple-double of 27 points and 19 rebounds that failed to negate the Celtics' 94-85 victory in Game 6 Thursday.
BOSTON -- It's all about LeBron James now. Can he out-Rondo the Celtics?
CLEVELAND -- The Cavaliers pulled off a highly smooth and impressive third-quarter comeback to beat the Celtics 101-93 Saturday in Game 1 of the conference semifinals.
CLEVELAND -- As he came back onto the floor with 5:50 remaining the seats were half emptied, as they'd been seven long years ago and as they could be as soon as next season. The missing half of the audience had not waited to attend the final minutes of what may be LeBron James's final game in Cleveland.
LeBron James may yet rescue the Cavaliers and the city of Cleveland, in that order. He may score his team's final 25 points in Game 6 Thursday night, as he once did in a crucial playoff game, and lead the Cavs to a win in Boston to keep their season alive. He may win a championship and re-sign with the Cavaliers. Someday we may see a 30-foot statue in downtown Cleveland of LeBron wearing all eight of his Cavaliers' championship rings.
Rajon Rondo has emerged as one of the most valuable players of this NBA postseason and the most effective player of this series while dominating all three phases Sunday with 29 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists in Boston's 97-87 Game 4 win, equalizing the conference semifinal 2-2 going into Game 5 at Cleveland.
While the Cavaliers and the Celtics take turns grinding on each other's muscles and nerves in their deadlocked second-round series, the Magic are methodically dismantling their playoff foes. Stan Van Gundy's crew won ugly against Charlotte in the first round, with Vince Carter mostly AWOL and Dwight Howard benching himself with heedless fouls. Now Orlando is winning pretty against Atlanta, making more than half its shots in the first three games while holding the Hawks to an average of 81 points.
BOSTON -- The Cavaliers crushed the Celtics 124-95 in Game 3 Friday to not only reclaim home-court advantage with a 2-1 lead in the series, but also create doubts that Boston can extend this conference semifinal beyond Game 5 Tuesday in Cleveland -- the beating was that overwhelming.
Almost two games deep into all the conference semifinal series and a number of stories have already become headliners. Of course, the most notable has been LeBron James' elbow injury. Who else made the list of top 10 second-round newsmakers? Take a look ...
Understand this much: The Cavaliers did not lose Game 2 on Monday because of LeBron James' elbow.
CLEVELAND -- The proud Celtics recovered from their Game 1 collapse to demolish the Cavaliers with a 21-4 third-quarter run and beat Cleveland 104-86 Monday, while seizing homecourt advantage and deadlocking the series at 1.
The Cavs escaped Game 5 and the first round with a 96-94 home victory against Chicago on Tuesday. The details will be lost amid the speculation over LeBron James' elbow, which was so sore at the end of the game that he shot a free throw left-handed.
The Celtics will beat the Cavaliers in Round 2 of the NBA playoffs.
Cleveland superstar LeBron James decided to outdo Dwyane Wade. James posted his fifth career playoff triple-double to lead the Cavaliers to a decisive 121-98 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Sunday afternoon. With the Cavaliers holding a 3-1 series lead and the series headed back to Cleveland, the only question is not if, but when, Cleveland advances to the second round.
Thanks to a 31-point showing from Derrick Rose, the Bulls built a 21-point lead over the Cavs before finishing them off 108-106 in Game 3 on Thursday. Though LeBron James, whose furious charge in the fourth was ultimately unsuccessful, and the Cavs still lead the series 2-1, could the Bulls have found a weakness in Cleveland's armor? Not quite, but Game 4 should be interesting.
Credit the visiting Bulls for making the league's best team sweat through the fourth quarter before the Cavs completed their inevitable 112-102 win in Game 2 on Monday.
Now that the six-month "preseason" is out of the way we can move on to the real games. Let's start with the five teams most likely to win the final game in June.
Coach Mike Brown and the Cavaliers couldn't have scripted Game 1 any better than it happened. And though Cleveland was taking on an overmatched and possibly distracted (see Vinny Del Negro vs. John Paxson) Bulls team, the Cavs made it clear why most favor them to win the East. The key takeaways from this win line up largely in their favor:
Despite his absence from the last four games of the regular season, LeBron James is, and will remain, the most prominent figure in the league over the next two months. Come July 1, nearly every team in the league will try to lure James. That means that for Cleveland the pressure is on more than ever in this postseason while they know they still have him. But LeBron's impending decision is just one of the stories that will shape the NBA playoffs, which begin Saturday. Here's a look some of the biggest storylines.
The last days of the regular season are for resting up, setting rotations and preparing scouting reports for future first-round opponents, right? Not if resting players could cost you home-court advantage -- an important factor considering teams with that edge have won 74.5 percent of playoff series since the 16-team format began in 1984 -- and the only thing you know about your first-round opponent is that you, well, have one.
BOSTON -- The fingernail cut left a thin red line near LeBron James' left eye. It couldn't be seen from across the locker room. But he could feel it. And he was smiling.
Boston and Cleveland measure themselves against the other, and as the Celtics look up Friday morning LeBron James suddenly appears 11 feet tall.
Has any coach had more success with a smaller sphere of influence than Phil Jackson? Ten rings. Seven MVP awards under his watch. Two dynasties.
SI.com's NBA writers analyze the latest news and address hot topics from around the league each week. (All stats and records are through Feb. 22.)
Almost half of the league's teams were involved in deadline trades over the past week. There appeared to be a number of explosions, but when the smoke cleared very little of importance had altered the championship race this season.
This week, in a move that made perfect sense but was also absolutely insane, the Cleveland Cavaliers acquired Antawn Jamison.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have become title favorites Wednesday after acquiring two-time All-Star Antawn Jamison for -- potentially -- very little.
The Cleveland Cavaliers acquired Wizards forward Antawn Jamison in a three-team, six-player trade on Wednesday, SI.com has confirmed.
There were a lot of surprises at All-Star weekend in Dallas, but none came as more of a shock than when LeBron James was asked about Cleveland potentially trading for Phoenix big man Amar'e Stoudemire.
SI.com's NBA writers analyze the latest news and address hot topics from around the league each week. (All stats and records are through Feb. 15.)
As All-Star weekend clears out of Dallas and NBA teams look ahead Thursday's trade deadline, the ball is now firmly in Cleveland's court. The Cavaliers are the most ambitious team available to take on salary, and they must decide whether to continue pursuing Amar'e Stoudemire or to renew potential trades for Antawn Jamison or Troy Murphy.
SI.com's NBA writers analyze the latest news and address hot topics from around the league each week. (All stats and records are through Feb. 8.)
SI.com's NBA writers analyze the latest news and address hot topics from around the league each week. (All stats and records are through Jan. 25.)
SI.com's NBA writers analyze the latest news and address hot topics from around the league each week. (All stats and records are through Jan. 20.)
Here are five things we learned from Cleveland's gritty 93-87 victory over Los Angeles on Thursday night:
1. Shaquille O'Neal to the Heat from the Lakers for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant and a first-round pick; July 14, 2004 Shaq wanted out of L.A. Kobe Bryant wanted him out, too. This trade lifted Miami from a 42-40 team that was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs to one that reached the conference finals in 2005 and won it all in 2006. It didn't turn out as badly for the Lakers as first thought. The immediate hit the Lakers took in '05, when they missed playoffs, provided them with the No. 10 pick in the draft, which brought center Andrew Bynum. If Bynum had not been injured, the Lakers might have won the title in 2008. They won it last season, with Odom playing a vital role. If they hadn't been suckered by Kwame Brown's eternal potential and traded Butler for him, they'd be even better, although Brown did serve a purpose in 2008 (see No. 3).
The contenders made bold moves over the summer, importing major stars who could play lead roles in blockbuster productions.
A lot of mail came in following my prediction that LeBron James will ultimately re-sign with Cleveland in 2010. Like LeBron, I believe in giving the people what they want ... so here we go again ...
Cavaliers coach Mike Brown is a nice, honest guy. He answers questions thoughtfully and genuinely, he looks reporters in the eye and he doesn't run his team by fiat.
Four SI.com writers analyze the latest news and address hot topics from around the NBA each week. (All stats and records are through Nov. 9.)
As LeBron makes his lone appearance of the season Friday night at Madison Square Garden, I am convinced he has basically decided to remain with Cleveland as a free agent in 2010. Here's why I believe he has made that decision (and why he won't admit it) ...
LeBron James is going to the Knicks. He's staying in Cleveland. He's going to the Nets, to play for that Russian billionaire, or maybe he'll find a way to play with his buddy Dwyane Wade somewhere, or he'll go to Europe or China and make $9 million per game for some team named after a cell-phone manufacturer. Then he'll buy the cell-phone manufacturer.
On a recent morning high above the Manhattan skyline, TNT's Charles Barkley was opining about one of his favorite subjects:
The NBA's best rivalry needed this. The home team had won the last 16 meetings before the visiting Celtics broke that spell Tuesday with an opening night 95-89 win over the Cavaliers (RECAP | BOX SCORE). After two years spent bear-hugging each other like wrestlers, a new dynamic has momentarily separated them.
SI.com's Ian Thomsen, Chris Ballard, Chris Mannix, Jack McCallum and Arash Markazi forecast the 2009-10 season.
Sports Illustrated's annual NBA predictions can be found in this week's magazine, and once again you can blame me for them. Here are my explanations for why I think ...
The NBA's 64th season tips off Tuesday night. Who are the players and what are the stories that will shape the next eight months? SI.com's Ian Thomsen offers a sneak peek ...
This article appears in the October 26, 2009, issue of Sports Illustrated
Every NBA season is a novel, with multiple subplots and an endless parade of characters converging on June. It's a story guaranteed to bring unexpected drama and comedy, but some of the plot lines are just sitting there, waiting to play out.
You hear it so often you just assume it must be true: Point guard is the toughest position to learn in the NBA. Well, it certainly is the most cerebral position, with the most information to absorb and the most responsibility for setting the pace and tone of an offense.
Here are the most sophisticated predictions you're likely to find for the coming season, as once again I've polled a half-dozen NBA advance and personnel scouts for their thoughts on the upcoming conference races and the playoffs.
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