Alas, neither Magic nor any other top-level celeb materializes. Nike CEO Phil Knight is sitting courtside, however, and Pauley is nearly filled to its capacity of 12,819. Someone has handed out hundreds of grinning LeBron faces-on-a-stick. Yet from his first shot—an air ball from the right corner—it's clear that James is off his A game. He clangs five more before connecting, and though he finishes with 21 points, he shoots 8 for 24 (and 0 for 9 from three-point range).
Still, St. V-M wins 64-58, its third victory over a national Top 10 team this season, and James produces some highlight-reel assists, none more breathtaking than a blind bounce pass back through his legs on the fast break to forward Romeo Travis for a dunk. "Tonight he did not play well," says Bill Walton, who broadcast the game, "but you're not always going to have a perfect performance. I still believe LeBron James would start on any NBA team today."
THREE HOURS AFTER THE GAME
Back at the hotel Adidas has spared no expense on its Superstars Lounge, outfitting a ballroom in homage to James and Telfair, whose teams are sponsored by the three snipes. Magazine covers and photos of the pair are hung on chain-link fences that surround leather couches, chairs and beanbags. Three plasma TVs play a loop of the two players' highlights from past ABCD camps, and there are two toothsome young women for every guy. Teenage girls pull James from the dance floor for pictures, whereupon he wipes his brow with a green hand towel and playfully uses it to flirt with them.
Just after 1 a.m. Bassie picks the night's last song, Jay-Z's The Bounce, and the throng goes wild. As James starts grinding with a special friend, he's surrounded by peers wearing jerseys of NBA stars past and present, from Chris Webber and Tracy McGrady to Jerry West and Pete Maravich. But James is sporting something unique: his own custom-made No. 23 jersey, with KING JAMES sewn across the back.
Life is good for the king these days. Yet you wonder, gazing at the scene, what it says about the state of the kingdom.
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