The joke, of course, is that James has transcended scouting. There isn't a GM in the NBA who would risk passing on a guy who's constantly being compared to Magic, Michael, and Kobe. Skipping school is the NBA's newest fashion statement. (You could make a plausible All-NBA TeamYao Ming, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzski, Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryantof guys who never set foot on a college campus.) And with Darko Milicic, an 18-year-old 7-footer who is Serbia's answer to LeBron James, winning his draft eligibility this weekend, the road to the NBA has veered a little farther away from Duke, North Carolina, and Georgetown.
Even amid the LeBron backlash, the young star has his supporters. At halftime, Trenton Mayor Douglas Palmer bends over backwards to sing the young man's praises. "He still maintains his dignity," says Palmer. "He's a great ball-player. His teammates love him. He's a great human being."
In the third quarter, his points made, his dues paid, James gives the crowd what they came for. It's Showtime. He starts hawking the passing lanes, forgetting about the jumper, and looking to get out on the break.
Within the span of about a minute, he throws down an alley-oop and rocks the rim with two breakaway dunks, each more emphatic than the previous. And just when the Westchester defenders think they've seen it all, James shows what makes him special. On the break yet again, he eschews the baseline reverse slam in favor of a Magic-to-Worthy semi-no-look to skying teammate Romeo Travis.
When his team calls time out after James's little highlight reelas much to give James and the crowd a blow as talk X's and O'sthe man-child hovers above his teammates, literally and figuratively. James is trying to listen, but his attention wanders. He may be on his way to the NBA and beyond, but for the moment, he still has enough kid in him that he can't help but sneak a peek at the Jumbotron and smile in wonder at his own instant replay.