Book excerpt: The Chosen Ones
Tonight, Cleveland and much of Ohio turns its eyes to Boston, where the now-much disliked Lebron James and his Miami Heat may be headed towards elimination from the playoffs. To honor the occasion, FOXSportsOhio.com presents chapter from The Chosen Ones: The Team that Beat LeBron, about Roger Bacon's unlikely championship defeat of St. Vincent St. Mary during James' junior year of high school. The book, written by Tony Meale, goes on sale today.
The comeback is on. A three would make it a one-possession game. St. Vincent-St. Mary’s Corey Jones feeds LeBron on the left block. LeBron takes one dribble and barrels into Roger Bacon’s Frank Phillips, who falls to the floor. The whistle blows. Charge on LeBron.
Frank has now picked up a combined five fouls on LeBron and SVSM’s Romeo Travis and can sense LeBron’s frustration mounting.
“In the third quarter, he was complaining about a call that was two or three possessions ago,” Phillips said. “I was like, ‘Man, you can’t keep complaining about that foul. That was three plays ago.’ And he just politely told me to shut up. He told me to shut up (and) that I wasn’t on his level. And with that, I just kind of shut up. I was like, ‘All right. You the man.’ But I knew right then and there that I got in his head a little bit. I thought, ‘Okay, he talks now. He wasn’t talking before.’ Once I heard that, I thought, ‘We got him. He’s done.’”
Well, not entirely done. Even with four fouls, LeBron stays in the game. Roger Bacon, in typical Greater Catholic League fashion, holds for the last shot. Tick tock, tick tock. LeBron walks past the key to greet Bacon’s 5-9 point guard Dave Johnson, who, 30 feet from the basket, looks at Bacon coach Bill Brewer and waits for the signal. With 13 seconds to go, Bill makes a circular motion with his right hand. Go. Dave, nine inches shorter than LeBron, takes one dribble left, fakes another dribble left— freezing LeBron for a split second—and then crosses over to his right. Color commentator Austin Carr ooohs. So do people in the stands, incredulous at what they’ve just witnessed.
Dave Johnson has just crossed over LeBron James.
Dave has a step. He scurries into the lane; the defense collapses. He finds Beckham Wyrick wide open for a 10-foot jumper on the baseline. The ball splashes the net and turns it inside out. 51–43, Bacon. Less than nine seconds remain in the third quarter.
The clock keeps ticking. LeBron gathers the ball and in-bounds to junior teammate Dru Joyce with four seconds left. Surely, SVSM won’t get a shot off. Surely, the score will remain 51–43. Surely, Bacon will lead by eight entering the final frame. Surely.
But then it happens.
The magic of LeBron happens.
Joyce takes one dribble and gives it right back to LeBron. Three seconds. LeBron dribbles once and takes two steps—which, with his long stride, carry him from one end of the circle at halfcourt all the way to the other. The ball leaves LeBron’s hands with 1.2 seconds left. He is eight feet inside the timeline.
ONN play-by-play man Marty Bannister has the call.
“Good if it goes . . .”
The shot sails in the air, rising and rising before falling and falling. Irish players and fans watch in wonder and freeze as if pleading with a basketball deity. You can see it in their faces. If only one basketball prayer ever gets answered, they seem to be thinking, please, let it be this one.
The shot hits the window. And then, the unthinkable.
. . . IT GOES!”
No way. No way.
LeBron James just banked in what was essentially a halfcourt shot.
Frank, in pure disbelief, grabs his head with both hands. The lead is down to five, 51–46. The arena boils to a fever-pitch frenzy. LeBron marches to the sideline, where the Irish bench, injected with life, surrounds him and pays homage. On the Bacon sideline, bench players Tim, Newt and Matt Reed, among others, rush the court to greet their teammates and lift their spirits.
“Hey! That’s all right! That’s all right! We still got the lead! One more quarter! One more quarter!”
But Dave, Beckham and the others are deflated. They’re in shock. They walk in a stunned stupor. Like a dazed fighter trying to find his corner, Frank wobbles right past Newton. He doesn’t even see him.
“The Chosen One chooses to go long distance and finish the third period!” says Bannister, animated.
The shot was shades of the CJ game — only worse. The lead went from eight to five in a flash. But it was more than the score; it was the momentum; it was the psychological impact. The guy who’s supposed to be the best prep player ever just hit a halfcourt shot. In the state final. When his team needed it the most. Like it was nothing.
“I would go see LeBron play all these games when I was (visiting my dad) in Akron,” Bacon junior guard Marcus Smith said. “And I’d sit there and think, ‘Why is he shooting all these halfcourt shots in warmups? Why is he in the front row of the stands shooting with one hand?’ I thought, ‘He’s cocky, he’s this, he’s that.’ Well, he hit one in the state final. When that shot went in, the whole crowd was just, oooooh. You could feel it.”
SVSM scored 16 points in the third quarter. LeBron scored 11 of them. He assisted on another two. He has personally outscored Bacon 9–3 over the last 3:16.
On the SVSM bench, there is instant belief. Guys are smiling. Guys are laughing. Some put their arms around each other. Things are going to be fine, their body language suggests. We’re only down five with eight minutes to go—and hey, we got LeBron. We got this.
Even the announcers can sense it.
“The Chosen One answers the call (and) gets it to go down—bang!” Carr says, amazed at the replay. “And what’s interesting about that shot—that was his only jump shot of the quarter. He’s changed his game. He knows where he has to go now. He has to go to the well now to make it happen.”
Eight minutes remain. It’s anybody’s game.