CLEVELAND -- More than 45 minutes late to a news conference,
LeBron James was one teen who didn't need an excuse.
"They had to drag me out of bed to put this suit on," James said
Tuesday, when he won the NBA Rookie of the Year award. "I didn't
want to get out. I thought I was going to practice when they woke
me up this morning."
Hey, saving the Cleveland Cavaliers is hard work, and the
19-year-old James put the final touch on a remarkable season by
becoming the rookie award's youngest recipient.
"I knew I would make an impact this year," said James, who
easily beat Denver's Carmelo Anthony, also 19. "And I guess I
The 6-foot-8 guard made the jump from preps to pros look easy,
somehow living up to the unprecedented hype. The No. 1 overall
draft pick did more than just post jaw-dropping statistics night
after night: He transformed Gund Arena into a hot spot, and he gave
Cleveland fans reason to hope.
"He proved to all of us that he is up for a challenge. He
exceeded all of our expectations and just kept raising the bar,"
Cavaliers owner Gordon Gund said.
James received 508 points, including 78 of a possible 118
first-place votes, to become the first Cleveland rookie honored.
Anthony, who left Syracuse after leading it to an NCAA
championship as a freshman, finished with 430 points, including the
other 40 first-place votes.
"People are going to think what they want to think," Anthony
said. "I don't really know what else I could have done."
"I thought it could go either way," said James, who praised
Anthony for having a phenomenal season. "I thought it could be a
In any other year, Anthony probably would have won the award for
statistics similar to James' and helping the Nuggets go from 17
victories to the playoffs.
But this season belonged to James, from his 25-point,
nine-rebound, six-assist NBA debut at Sacramento through his
resounding windmill dunk to close his season at Madison Square
But that's where the similarities end.
No player entered the league to as much fanfare as James. And
the Akron native delivered on the court, while his wine-and-gold
No. 23 jersey led NBA sales and his image was marketed from coast
James averaged 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists,
joining Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan as the only NBA rookies
to average at least 20-5-5.
"He just has it. It's all his attitude," Cavaliers coach Paul
Silas said. "He has a knack for doing and saying the right thing
and not in an antagonistic way. That's just not in him. He's
humble, and he's about winning more than anything."
Like any rookie, James had his share of struggles while
adjusting to the pros. He learned to accept the punishment before
dishing out some of his own.
On March 27, he scored 41 points against New Jersey to become
the youngest player in league history to break 40. He scored more
than 30 points 13 times, and made countless moves that defied
"They try to take away your manhood in this league, and they
couldn't get mine," said James, who was to receive his trophy
Tuesday night at the NBA store in New York. "I could have averaged
around 25 points if I could have gotten a lot of calls."
Hall of Famer Julius Erving, who helped present the trophy,
believes this is the first of many big accomplishments for James in
"I think nothing but extraordinary things about this
extraordinary young man," Erving said. "He silenced the critics
early and often. This rookie of the year selection is his first
step to going to the Basketball Hall of Fame."
A year after going 17-65, the Cavs went 35-47 and finished ninth
in the Eastern Conference, one spot out of the playoffs. James also
helped home attendance rise from 11,497 to 18,288 _ the highest
increase ever for a team that didn't move into a new building.
Plenty of those new fans came to see James, who actually
considers football his first love.
He joked Tuesday that he just might have made the right choice
by dropping football for good a few years back. Especially now that
he's seen his friend, Maurice Clarett, go to court in an effort to
enter the NFL early.
"I could have made it to the NFL," James said. "But I
probably would have come in with Maurice and been sent back to