NBA veteran Drew Gooden spent four seasons with LeBron James on the Cleveland Cavaliers in the mid-2000s, but he knew even before then how great the Kid from Akron truly was.
On a Christmas Day 2003 matchup between Gooden’s Orlando Magic and James’s Cavs, Gooden recalled the sheer domination displayed by then-rookie sensation James.
“You watch that game over, you see GREATNESS written all over young LeBron James,” Gooden recently remembered on Youtube’s Scoop B Selects with host, Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson. “I can speak firsthand because after that season, I played with him for 4 seasons and went to the NBA Finals and he was the guy that led us.”
It’s true that the NBA has never season anything like the force of nature that was early-career LeBron. With a level of supernatural athleticism that was rivaled only by his savant-like basketball IQ, James wasted no time taking the NBA by storm, winning the 2003-04 Rookie of the Year trophy and requiring only four seasons to get his hometown Cavs to the NBA Finals.
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In fact, the very idea that Cleveland, a franchise that isn’t exactly rich in pre-LeBron history, was given the honor of a Christmas Day game in the very first season of his career is a testament to the hype that surrounded James ever since he entered the league.
The fact that James has not only met but exceeded those expectations is truly remarkable, and it’s no wonder that Gooden and other former teammates and opponents are still marveling at it 20 years later, all while James continues to dominate the league.