LeBron James: The Rise of a Star

LeBron James: The Rise of a Star

by David Morgan Jr.


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“A well-rounded, personal portrait of the young superstar” — Booklist

An up-close look at young LeBron James when he was basketball's hottest prospect, poised at the brink of superstardom.

Sportswriter David Lee Morgan covered the LeBron phenomenon for the Akron Beacon Journal starting with LeBron’s freshman year in high school and had unequaled access to LeBron, his family, and his close friends. He saw the exceptional play on the basketball court and the surprising poise with which LeBron has handled the pressure, the scrutiny, the criticism that arrived with the early onset of fame.

The odds were against James from the start. Born in poverty to a 16-year-old single mom, without a stable home for the first decade of his life, LeBron could have become just one more scarred product of a rough childhood in the projects. Instead, he became the darling of the sports world—and he plays the part well.

He was called the best high school basketball player ever. He made the cover of Sports Illustrated as a junior, was featured on national television, and signed more than $100 million in promotional contracts before the end of his senior year. It was no surprise when he became the no-doubt-about-it No. 1 pick in the NBA draft right after high school graduation.

This is a story for any fan who wants to get to know LeBron better, and for anyone curious about how a high-school basketball phenom is made.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781886228740
Publisher: Gray & Company, Publishers
Publication date: 10/01/2003
Pages: 172
Sales rank: 518,440
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

David Lee Morgan, Jr. was a sports reporter for the Akron Beacon Journal from 1995 to 2010, where he won several awards for his coverage of high school sports, including the James A. Sutherland Award, given to the top rookie reporter in Northeast Ohio. He is a former high school and collegiate athlete.

Read an Excerpt

Big Night

On December 12, 2002, a near-sellout crowd of more than 11,000 fans streamed from the cold, dark Cleveland evening into the bright light and swelling noise of the downtown CSU Convocation Center. It was a big night. They were there to watch a high school kid from a small parochial school in nearby Akron play basketball.

They would not be the only ones watching. A television crew from ESPN2 was there with the network’s top announcers to broadcast the game nationwide. Reporters from local and national newspapers, including the New York Times and USA Today, were on hand to cover the story—both the on-court action and the hive of activity buzzing around it.

Why the big fuss over 17-year-old LeBron James?

He was “The Chosen One.” That was how Sports Illustrated had labeled this tall, charismatic teen when the magazine of record in the sports world made him only the eighth high school ballplayer to appear on its cover in 48 years. LeBron had been touted widely—and wildly—by many sports insiders as one of the best high school basketball player ever. Maybe the best. Ever.

This night was his chance to prove it. Would he truly shine as a legitimate star, ready to make the huge jump directly to the NBA? Or would he disappoint, revealing, as critics complained, that this kid had been extravagantly overrated?

LeBron was already on a first-name basis with Northeast Ohio; he had been making headlines locally since his sophomore year. And he was well known to the small community of serious high school basketball fans throughout the U.S., who knew him as a natural talent and a tough competitor. But this night, before a packed house and a large national television audience, would be his coming-out party.

“Dickie V! Dickie V!”

For a moment the cries of the basketball fans in the arena were as deafening as the man standing courtside, smiling happily at his fans.

“Dickie V! Dickie V!”

Dick Vitale, the iconic face and unstoppable voice of big-time college basketball, had walked onto the floor with his ESPN2 colleagues.

If you were a stranger to the game, you might have thought Vitale was the reason these fans were jammed onto the bleachers overlooking the basketball court. After all, the teams were only high school students. The announcer was a star, and obviously a fan favorite. Dickie V loved the games, loved the kids, and wanted everyone to be a winner.

Beside him were NBA hall-of-famer Bill Walton, still tall and powerful looking, the opposite of Vitale with a matter-of-fact delivery and expressions ranging from deadpan to deader-pan.

With them was Dan Shulman, who loved sports and had found his dream job as a reporter. He would fill in moments of silence if Vitale and Walton ever paused to catch their breaths.

“I hope Dan isn’t getting paid by the word, because he won’t make any money,” Vitale joked.

The hype and hoopla generated by the event did not excite everyone.

Veteran CBS Sports basketball analyst Billy Packer had gone on the record in opposition to this particular event and to the televised promotion of high school kids in general.

“Well, television is a business but I am very much against the promotion of high school athletes as if they have accomplished something beyond high school athleticism, and if I were assigned to do that game I wouldn’t broadcast it,” Packer said.

Packer had been involved with basketball for many years and had seen many prodigies who never quite succeeded in the majors. He thought high school players needed a few years of college to mature.

Of LeBron James he said, “Let him win a state high school basketball championship before we name him the greatest high school player to come out of Ohio.”

He had a good point. However in this particular case, he might have been wrong. To begin with, LeBron and his teammates had already won two state championships. But it wasn’t just the two championships that made LeBron different. This youngster displayed such genuine poise, charm, and maturity that most who had watched him closely over the past three years agreed he had the polish of a professional already.

As LeBron prepared for the night’s game alongside his teammates, he wasn’t thinking about other people’s expectations for him. His own were great enough. This game was special to him for reasons more important than television crews. He had vowed to himself, months before, to win this game for his teammates and himself, and to redeem himself for two of his most disappointing defeats.

LeBron’s school, St. Vincent-St. Mary High School of Akron, Ohio, was a small urban Catholic school usually known more for its academics than for its sports teams. The school had lucked into basketball glory when LeBron and his four closest friends enrolled together, bringing the core of a team like none the school had ever seen before.

That night, the St. Vincent-St. Mary Fighting Irish were facing mighty Oak Hill Academy, a prep school from Mouth of Wilson, Virginia that was a perennial national powerhouse with rosters filled with top Division I college basketball pros pects. The two teams had faced one another twice in the two previous seasons, and the Irish had lost both times.

During LeBron’s sophomore year, St. Vincent-St. Mary played Oak Hill in the National Hoops Classic at Battelle Hall in downtown Columbus, Ohio. The Oak Hill Warriors should have dominated the court, with six players on their roster who would go on to play Division I college ball. The Irish surprised them, though, and took a lead into the third quarter—only to lose at the buzzer on a missed shot by LeBron, who was devastated to have let his team down.

The Irish lost the rematch the following year, at the Prime Time Shootout in Trenton, New Jersey. Oak Hill’s team then featured guard Carmelo Anthony, who would go on to help Syracuse University win an NCAA championship. LeBron and Carmelo became friendly rivals. LeBron had the better game, scoring a game-high 36 points to Carmelo’s 34, but Carmelo got the last laugh as Oak Hill defeated St. Vincent-St. Mary 72-68.

Now in his senior year, this would be LeBron’s final shot at proving his team could take on, and beat, the very best.

“I can’t wait for the game. I’m going to put on a show,” LeBron predicted.

The event had an electric air of anticipation, with all the energy of a big-time NBA contest.

The star of the show took center stage, wearing his emerald-green Nike shoes and his emerald headband with the prominent NBA logo right on the front. The crowd was primed to witness athletic greatness in the raw.

During the pregame warmup, LeBron put on a show. He indulged in high-flying acrobatics, moving as though boosted by springs in his shoes.

But then, when the game finally started, LeBron seemed to have forgotten everything he had learned about playing under pressure. He tried too hard, used too much muscle, and missed his first few shots. You could almost see Oak Hill’s players relax slightly, as though the one player they feared the most might actually be weakening under the tension of the moment.

Eventually, LeBron remembered to relax. He settled down and began making shot after shot, including a spectacular dunk that would be shown repeatedly on ESPN’s nightly highlights show, SportsCenter, the following day. LeBron scored 31 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, and dished out 6 assists. When the buzzer finally sounded and the team looked at the scoreboard, they had done more than win. They had bested the best, No. 1-ranked Oak Hill, by 20 points, 65-45.

Dick Vitale stared at the score, stared at LeBron, then declared to the camera, “He’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

What Vitale and many of the others who were watching LeBron for the first time didn’t know, though, was that the truth, the whole truth about LeBron James, was not his spectacular performance on the court that night. He had indeed arrived, but natural talent and competitive drive alone had not propelled him here, had not alone led this inner-city youth from poverty, steered him from the all-too familiar temptations of the streets, and inspired him to discover his desire and ability to lead others to victory.

The story behind the young phenom’s remarkable success was visible all around him in the arena that night—alongside him on the court, on the sidelines, and in the stands. The truth is, without his teammates, his mentors, his friends, his family, LeBron James would never have been there at all.

Sharing the spotlight with him in the afterglow of their win were LeBron’s teammates and best friends—Dru Joyce III, Willie McGee, Romeo Travis, and Sian Cotton—the “Fab Five,” they were now being called, who had grown up together as they played together (some of them for as many as eight years), and who had learned to rely on one another on and off the court. No one ballplayer can win a game, let alone a season, without a team, but these particular boys were more than supporting players. “They are my brothers,” LeBron insisted, truly meaning it.

At courtside was LeBron’s coach, Dru Joyce III, who was leading the St. Vincent-St. Mary Irish toward their third state championship in four years. He was not only a coach, he was extended family; he had been closely involved with LeBron and his own son, “Little Dru,” since the fifth grade.

In the stands were hundreds representing St. Vincent-St. Mary, the parochial school where teachers made sure students knew that sports came third, academics came second, and life came first. LeBron was pleasing many of them far more with his good grades and his good behavior than with his slam dunks. LeBron’s fellow students teased him at school like anyone else, and they valued him as much for “Best Smile” as “Most Athletic.”

Frankie Walker, Sr. was watching nearby, too. He had been the first to place a real basketball into LeBron’s hands and try to teach him the right way to play the game. But more importantly, he and his family at the same time opened their home to LeBron just when the young boy was most at risk of losing his way.

Not able to attend, but present in spirit and watching the game on television was Keith Dambrot. The former Division I college coach had once been laid low by scandal, only to discover budding basketball genius in the young LeBron while coaching as volunteer at Akron’s downtown Jewish Community Center. Then, by chance, he got to coach LeBron and the rest of the Fab Five to St. Vincent-St. Mary’s first two state championships. Dambrot had helped LeBron build a career—and LeBron helped him resurrect his own.

Finally, sitting together in the stands were LeBron’s mother, Gloria, and her good friend, the man LeBron called dad, Eddie Jackson.

Eddie was a charming hustler, a man who had served time in prison for selling drugs (and would soon do time again for fraud). But he loved Gloria, adored her son, and vowed to always be there for LeBron. He didn’t always succeed, but LeBron loved him for his effort.

Gloria had become a single parent in high school and never really found her footing. She and little LeBron drifted, living with friends and neighbors, trying to get by. But her love, at least, was steady and ample, and Gloria managed to gather an extraordinary extended family to help nurture the boy. She was fiercely protective of her “baby” and always found a way to get him what he needed. As he grew older, LeBron would joke that because of their ages, they were almost like sister and brother. Regardless, the two were devoted to each other.

After the game that December night, buffeted by media all wanting to interview him about his team’s high-profile win, LeBron James looked calm and cool, every bit the smooth professional. He had good reason to be comfortable: he was at home on the basketball court, and surrounded by all his family.

[Excerpted from LeBron James: The Rise of a Star, © David Lee Morgan Jr.. All rights reserved. Gray & Company, Publishers.]

Table of Contents

Big Night

Hickory Street

On the Move

Organized Sports

Spring Hill


Coach Dambrot

Freshman Year


Sophomore Year



Junior year

Trying to Stay Normal

Senior Year: Big Time

A Role Model


The Hummer

Jersey Trouble

Friends to the End

Shoe War



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LeBron James: The Rise of a Star 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Started from the bottom now were here.”  This quote explains LeBron’s life he started from the  bottom in poverty and now he’s at the top a finals MVP. The book Rise of a Star by David Lee Morgan is  about LeBron James and how he tries to overcome all his troubles to become a super star. In the book  LeBron finds himself in trouble with the NCAA, which could put his basketball career in jeopardy. I think  the book is a really good book because if you like basketball, then you would be able to relate easily to  the book. I think the book is for boy and girls because both play basketball and would enjoy it.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think the book was ludicris it was not the truth at all he did not come from a very poor fammily I am writing a book now telling the whole truth about lebron stay tuned
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
The name of the book is The Rise of a Star by David Lee Morgan Jr. This book is a nonfiction account of NBA player LeBron James. This book dictates important milestones of LeBron¿s life from childhood into his high school years. It describes the hardships that he faced on his way to the NBA. It also tells about his childhood growing up, playing basketball and other sports. The main theme of this book is to never give up. This is illustrated throughout the book when Morgen talks about LeBron¿s turbulent childhood. His perseverance is also shown when people close to him passed away, like Eddie. Eddie¿s death didn¿t let this stop him, instead, he got right back on the court and won a Championship. This book would be a good read for someone who wants to find out more about LeBron and all of the aspects of his life. One element of the book that was confusing to me was the use of quotes. Occasionally, quotes were used and the context was not properly introduced or explained well which made the story confusing. One quote that I did like was when Lebron said ¿My Mother knows that you have to make most of your life, because tomorrow you might not wake up.¿(pg.83) This quote really represents the theme of this book, which is to never give up and to live life to the fullest. Although we are familiar with all of LeBrons successes, he was faced with much hardship along his road to stardom. He grew up in a very rough neighborhood and was forced to move frequently. Because he had to relocate so often, it was difficult for him to make friends. Eventually, things were so bad for his family that they were left homeless, need to live with friends or neighbors. I can relate strongly to this story. Although I haven¿t experienced some of his financial hardships, his drive in life is much like mine. LeBron played basketball all his life not to prove anything to anyone else but himself. He was determined to become a master of his craft and that¿s exactly what he did against all odds. When I want to reach a goal, literal or figurative, I try and try until I can¿t go on any longer. This is the same way for LeBron. He wouldn¿t stop until he was the best. Through reading this book, I have learned that success is possible despite hardships, and with hard work and determination anything is possible.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In the book, LeBron James Rise of the Star, by David Lee Morgan JR, this book shows what LeBron James, a high school phenomenon and now an NBA star had to go through and what lead him to becoming such a great basketball player. The genre of this book is non-fiction and the theme is what it really takes to become an NBA player straight out of high school. In the beginning of the book, it talks about Lebron at a young age and some of the bad experiences he had to go through. One experience that was really sad was when LeBron¿s grandmother who everybody loved, died on Christmas morning, so Gloria (LeBron¿s mom) did not tell LeBron about it so he would have a great Christmas. This book was not only a sad book because LeBron and his teammates knew how to win and they did a lot of it. Throughout high school, St. Vincent St. Mary¿s (LeBron¿s high school) won three championships. When they lost one year, LeBron thought that the game was his fault and felt terrible about the loss. In his junior year in high school, (the year after they lost the championship) LeBron was really starting to love football maybe more then basketball. If he had chosen basketball over football, he still would have had a very productive career. You do not get many instances when you see a 6 foot 8 inch wide receiver that ran like a horse. Then, after playing a year of football, he just decided that basketball was going to be his main sport and he decided to drop playing football even though he loved it. He just was not going to risk the chance of getting a career ending injury and made a good choice by not taking the risk. Another reason to love this book is because during his senior year of high school, Gloria got LeBron a hummer for his birthday. One day while he was driving to his game, he got pulled over and Gloria came and took care of the situation just so LeBron would not miss senior night. When it was LeBron¿s turn to walk out with his mom, she was still dealing with the car situation so LeBron¿s teammates walked out with him together which really made it a great moment and you knew that those five players had a special bond. In conclusion, the book, LeBron James Rise of the Star, by David Lee Morgan JR, is a very heart warming book. It makes you feel good inside because even though LeBron suffered a lot while he was younger, he never got into any gangs and always got good grades. This means something to me when I hear that someone who came from a very poor family worked as hard as he could day in and out at school and just everyday. In the end, all of this paid off because now LeBron is the best basketball player in the NBA, which goes to show you that anyone can do anything.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really liked the book Lebron James Rise of a Star. It really showed how tough of a childhood. It also had good depictions of all of the controversy he faced when playing baseketball at St. Vincient St. Mary. It showed me how no matter where you start you can always finish strong. It also showed me thatwhen friends stick together they can achieve better thing than one person can alone. So overall I really liked this book and recommend it
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great bio on a basketball genius. Recommend it for anyone is is interested in playing Basketball!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is the greatest book ever my opinion. It doesnt matter if u are doing a book report or reading for pleasure it is great.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was a great book from start to finish...YOU must read this book . To all NBA fans .....go get and read this book ASAP
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was the best.I wasn't able to put this book down and this book was full of info about his ups and downs in his young years.I highly Recommend this book for all ages.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although the author approaches his subject with great authority, the book itself is woefully lacking in...well everything. The reader is offered a number of fluff anecdotes and meaningless tidbits. Considering the author covered LeBron James long before anyone else, one would expect to read insights that other sportswriters wouldnt be able to offer. The writing is very bland and sophomoric. The text seems to be appropriate for grade school level readers. Perhaps the publishers thought that LeBron fans can only read at the 3rd grade level.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book gives great detail on how Lebron James has made it to the NBA and the truly great person he is. The book brings great accuracy and is the most comprehensive read I've seen on the future star. The author of this book brings great authority with his long background covering Lebron before anyone else knew of him.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great Read...Fascinating insight on the the rise of a young star.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There is information in this book about LeBron that hasn't been made public. Very interesting and well written book.