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King for a Day
Rick Reilly
February 10, 2003
There was the high school god—6'8", 240-pound senior LeBron James—sitting on the bench. And here was the high school nobody—5'76", 150-pound junior Brandon Weems—taking James's spot in the starting lineup.
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February 10, 2003

King For A Day

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"That was the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life," said Weems, a 4.0 student this season. He would love to study marketing and play for Duke someday, but has only received letters from schools like Lake Forest and Lehigh. "I mean, those were some impossible shoes to fill, but LeBron told me to go out and play hard for him."

LeBron might've been out there playing hard for himself if he had something that Weems had: better parental guidance. James has never met his biological father, and the man who served as a father figure, Eddie Jackson, is in jail for mortgage fraud. That leaves James in the hands of his eccentric mother, Gloria, who bought him the Hummer to begin with and who, during a blowout recently, paraded in front of the visiting team's fans holding high a picture of her son.

"Brandon's a good boy," said Weems's father, Darrell, a supervisor at an aluminum factory. "He understands what rules are."

Of course, Brandon hasn't spent the last two years having people convince him he's the greatest thing to happen to basketball since somebody cut the bottoms off the peach baskets. As one sticker on eBay says, WHO DIED AND MADE YOU LEBRON JAMES?

Wouldn't you think you were rule-proof if: a) Your games were televised on ESPN2 and regional pay-per-view, and moved to bigger arenas to cash in on larger gates? b) You were on the cover of SI as a high school junior? c) You worked out with Jordan, had Shaq's cell number and AI came to see you play? d) Your school accepted huge appearance fees, plus all expenses, to have your team appear in Philadelphia; Los Angeles; Greensboro, N.C.; and Trenton, N.J.? e) You had your own bobblehead doll?

So maybe James's high school career is over, and maybe it should be, so he can just get on with the drudgery of signing Nike's or Adidas's $25 million shoe contract. (Bet on Nike.) Or maybe it's not over, and he will get an injunction or win an appeal and play in Trenton on Saturday. James wasn't talking to anybody but Neon Deion. But for one day at least, tiny Brandon Weems had one thing LeBron James wanted—another high school basketball game.

"It was real emotional for 'Bron the last two days," said Weems. "At practice [two days before] we could even see tears in his eyes. I mean, they took away from him the thing he loves most-basketball...I don't know...sometimes I feel sorry for him."

Maybe he should. King James traded 11 teammates for two jerseys. From here on out, basketball is a job. He gets the bazillions, but he's stuck with the relentless attention and the helium-filled expectations. Dreamer, meanwhile, is looking at a full senior year, college and a future that stretches out blissfully unplanned.

And remember, the kid has a 4.0 and loves marketing. You think LeBron might need an agent?

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