How Lebron James Tried To Change The NBA Draft Rules

LeBron James recently made basketball history by breaking the all-time scoring record, taking over the top spot from the legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, per the NBA. This record stood on the NBA's books for four decades, but James might have been able to break it earlier in his career if he had gotten his way in 2002.

Long before he dominated the court as a professional player, he was one of the country's rising stars in the sport. The Akron, Ohio native showed promise when he was only in elementary school (via Britannica). Even this early on in his life, James dreamed big. He later told The New York Times, ”When I was in the 5th grade, I wrote down my career goals, and one of them was to be in the NBA'." By the time he got to high school, James had become a force to be reckoned with.

He garnered national attention in high school

At Akron's St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, LeBron James quickly became a standout player. He was only 14 years old when he first hit the court for the team, per Sporting News. James scored an impressive 18 points per game that first year, helping his team win the state title. As a sophomore, he continued to shine. James made local sports history as the first sophomore to win the Ohio Mr. Basketball award. He was also selected for the USA Today All-USA First Team honor.

This sophomore sensation helped his team secure their second state title, and he attracted a lot of attention for his athletic prowess (via Sports Illustrated). His team's games had to be moved to bigger venues to accommodate all the spectators. All of this success pushed James to contemplate doing the impossible — entering the NBA before completing high school. Unfortunately, the NBA rules at the time prevented younger players from doing that.

James almost went pro early

LeBron James wanted to challenge the NBA rules and enter the 2002 draft as a high school junior (via Sports Illustrated). He talked about petitioning the NBA for the right to participate in the draft, which would have been a first for the sport. James already seemed to have a lot of support for making this kind of big move from the likes of such professional players as Michael Jordan. And experts were drawing comparisons between him and other great players like Magic Johnson.

Being in the 2002 NBA draft would have put James in the mix with some impressive company, including Yao Ming, who was picked first by the Houston Rockets, per Basketball Reference. But the NBA wasn't ready to add 17-year-olds to the draft, and James decided to finish high school before going pro. According to Britannica, he still managed to land a $90 million deal with Nike as a high school student-athlete. And only a year later, the Cleveland Cavaliers signed James, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2003 draft (via the Olympics). In his first season with the Cavaliers, he earned the NBA Rookie of the Year Award.