LeBron: A Look Back at A Legend-in-the-Making

Between 2000 and 2004, I worked on about 85 assignments as a stringer for Time. Easily, one of my favorites was reporting on LeBron James during his senior year at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio.

To see some of my first reporting on LeBron, while he was in high school, click here.

I also reported on him early in his rookie year with the Cleveland Cavaliers. You can see that writing here.

Three times during a formative 11-month span in this phenomenal talent’s life, I dropped in on LeBron’s World, interviewing him, his coaches, friends and a longtime support network of adults.

The first time, in December 2002, I met a reporter for the Akron Beacon-Journal, David Lee Morgan Jr. I could tell, within a few minutes, that Morgan was working on a book on LeBron. Though he coyly resisted confirming my suspicion, neither did he deny it.

So it was no surprise a short time later—I think it was during LeBron’s rookie year in the NBA—that I came across Morgan’s “LeBron James: The Rise of a Star.”

On my second trip to Akron, in January 2003, I met Kris Belman (pictured below, with James). He explained that what had begun as a film school class assignment had mushroomed into a documentary on LeBron and his teammates.

He took a few minutes to interview me (cutting-room floor material, I strongly suspect) at “The JAR”—the James A. Rhodes Arena where LeBron’s team played its home games.

Little did I know that it would be the better part of a decade—by which time LeBron has more than lived up to the rarefied billing with which he entered the pros—that the documentary would start appearing on screens across the country.

In October, at last, that documentary, “More Than a Game,” will be aired in Chicago and other cities. You can see Chicago Tribune reporter K.C. Johnson’s story about it here.

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Seven Years Later: "Type Headline Here"

Unlike most Americans, I didn’t have a television on Sept. 11, 2001. So, unlike most Americans, I learned about the 9/11 attacks via another medium: e-mail alerts from the New York Times.

When I checked my e-mail that morning, this missive from the newspaper was my first inkling of the terrible events that had begun to unfold on that day:

Tuesday, September 11, 2001 — 8:50 AM EST
————————————————————
Plane Crashes Into World Trade Center

A plane crashed into Manhattan’s World Trade Center this
morning, causing heavy damage and fire to several floors.

I envisioned a single-engine plane and a tragedy that was nowhere near the scope of what had occurred.

Then this e-mail arrived:

Tuesday, September 11, 2001 — 9:04 AM EST
————————————————————
Type headline here

A second plane has crashed into the World Trade Center
towers, according to the Associated Press.

It may seem peculiar to some, but to me, the biggest tip-off of the horrible magnitude of events wasn’t that a second plane had crashed–after all, there’s still no detail about the size of either plane.

Instead, I couldn’t help but note that a Times editor had been so frantic that he or she failed to insert a headline before clicking “send.”

I have many memories from that traumatic day: breaking the news to my wife through a prayer at breakfast, visiting her grandparents, reporting for Time magazine (the collective story was called “Day of Bombing”) and talking to a college friend who was 100 yards away when the plane crashed into the Pentagon.

But my first memory from Sept. 11, 2001 is perhaps the eeriest:

When my eyes opened that morning, the digital alarm clock-radio read 7:47. “Like a 747 plane,” I thought, then drifted back to sleep for a few minutes longer.
As I later learned, Flight 11 had crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center about a minute earlier.