|Friday, April 25
Updated: July 22, 5:11 PM ET
James to forego collegiate career
AKRON, Ohio -- For LeBron James, it was simply the right time.
James declared himself eligible for the NBA draft Friday, a move that clears the way for the nation's top high school player to become the likely No. 1 pick.
"When you see there's no way you can get any hotter ... You've got to take on an opportunity when it's in front of you and that's what made me make this decision,'' he said.
The 6-foot-8 forward made the anticipated announcement at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, which he led to three state championships in four years.
With his teammates sitting in a row of chairs behind him, the 18-year-old spoke fondly of his high school career and said playing in the NBA is his lifelong dream.
"I'm just looking forward to the challenge,'' James said. "I love challenges. And I know everyone's going to be coming after me.''
The Denver Nuggets and Cleveland Cavaliers have the best odds of winning the No. 1 overall pick in the draft lottery on May 22. James said he has no preference on where he plays and is willing to go anywhere he's drafted.
"Whatever team decides to pick me on June 26, 2003, I won't let them down,'' James said. "I'm just coming in looking to be a leader on a team that's just trying to get better from season to season.''
Although James did not name an agent, Aaron Goodwin -- who represents players such as Gary Payton and Vin Baker -- attended the news conference.
James also hasn't chosen among Nike, Adidas and Reebok, which have been courting him for a shoe deal expected to be worth at least $20 million.
James, wearing a gray Air Jordan shirt, stood in front of a large banner emblazoned with "LeBronJames.com.'' He said there is nothing yet on the Web site, but that it eventually will hold information about James, the only three-time winner of Ohio's Mr. Basketball award.
His mother, Gloria, and coach Dru Joyce II sat on one side of him. On the other side sat Frank and Pam Walker, whom he lived with when he was in fifth grade.
James said that he will be at home with family and friends for the draft lottery and plans to form a relationship with the teams that have the first three picks.
"It's not a locked thing that I'm going to be the No. 1 pick,'' he said.
James, who will graduate June 7, has been destined for the pros for some time. At one point he and his mother considered petitioning the NBA to allow him to enter the draft after his junior year of high school.
As a junior, he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, dubbed "The Chosen One,'' and in the last two years has won virtually every national player of the year award.
James said he knows there will be pressure on him to live up to expectations.
"I hope my teammates, who are going to be much older than me, respect me as a player,'' James said. "I'm not coming in trying to be cocky. I'm just trying to get my teammates better every day.''
He averaged 30.4 points, 9.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 2.9 steals as a senior and was named the MVP in all three of his postseason All-Star games.
His senior year also included an investigation after he accepted two "throwback'' jerseys worth $845 from a Cleveland clothing store.
James was suspended by the state's high school athletic association, which also forced St. Vincent-St. Mary to forfeit one game.
He then won a court order allowing him to complete his senior year. He capped the season by leading St. Vincent-St. Mary to another state title.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association also looked into James' mother's purchase of a $50,000 Hummer H2 for her son's 18th birthday. The family was cleared of any wrongdoing.