It’s no surprise that professional basketball players are fans of, well, basketball. Countless times we see players watching their competition or even the up-and-comers. On February 9, No. 2 Duke took on the then-No. 3 Virginia Cavaliers and the King himself, LeBron James, was there to witness it in person.
Now, its speculated that Lebron James and his agent/longtime friend Rich Paul went to the game to scout and recruit potential No. 1 overall pick, Zion Williamson. However, that was debunked quickly in an interview with ESPN.
James stated, “A recruiting trip? I didn’t talk to anybody. They’re only saying that because it’s Rich. When Shaq came to see me play in high school, when A.I. came to see me play in high school, they weren’t saying it was a recruiting trip then. But because it’s Rich Paul and LeBron, now it’s a recruitment trip.”
James brings up some very compelling points. It’s interesting to see how the times have changed. When LeBron was a high school sensation no one even questioned why Shaq and Iverson were in attendance. There was a mutual understanding that they were there to watch and only watch one of the greatest high school basketball players to ever live.
There was no speculation over whether Allen Iverson secretly went to the game in hope to recruit LeBron to the 76ers. He went to the game to witness a generational talent live on the court.
However, it is noted that James, even though a player, often plays a heavy role in recruiting talent to his team. Even if LeBron got the opportunity to pitch his offer to Zion or any of the Duke freshmen, it’s seemingly useless. The Duke freshmen — aside from Tre Jones — are all projected to go top five in the NBA Draft, which is out of reach for the Lakers at this time.
But what we simply witnessed was talent recognizing talent. Just as we saw years back with Shaq and Iverson going to see James. However, James wasn’t just there for Zion, he was there for the whole Duke team.
He stated, “I love what those young boys are doing over there… I love what Zion and RJ [Barrett] and Cam [Reddish] and Tre [Jones], I love what they’re doing. So, [the trip] was a no-brainer. It was easy.”
And, of course, there was plenty of praise for Zion, who is considered the top player in college basketball.
“What strikes me? His agility and his quickness,” James said. “For his size, how strong he is, to be able to move like the way he moves, he’s very impressive. I mean, everybody can see the athleticism. That’s obviously, that’s ridiculous. But the speed and the quickness that he moves [with] at that size is very impressive.”
High praise by arguably the greatest player on the planet. Williamson continued to put up dominating numbers with Lebron watching. The 6-foot-7 forward posted 18 points on an efficient 6-of-8 from the field. He also added five rebounds and assists, with three blocks and steals.
Williamson from an athletic standpoint is possibly the closest thing to LeBron as you can get. So the question to ask is did LeBron attend to simply watch the game? Or did he attend to witness the next great king?