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Why The LeBron James Jr. Hype Is Wrong

3 min read

by Waterboy Sam Meyerkopf

"Yeah, he's already got some offers from colleges," James told CBS Detroit before the Cleveland Cavaliers' matchup against the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday. "It's pretty crazy. It should be a violation. You shouldn't be recruiting 10-year-old kids."

That’s right. LeBron James Jr., the 10-year-old son of you-know-who, is already receiving college offers.

After this video dropped that shows little LeBron dominating a 4th grade competition in Houston, it has already accumulated more than 6 MILLION views.

Yes, he was playing well, hitting shots, getting to the basket, showing great vision but he’s in FOURTH GRADE!

No matter how good a young player is, at what age is too much? Too soon? Too much an invasion of the life of a young kid?

There's nothing wrong with celebrating a good performance by your child, or even shooting some video to share with friends and family, but turning 10-year-olds into highlight reel stars is setting expectations in a way that is unlikely to help them in the long run.

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Cautionary Tales 

For those that have read the book Play Their Hearts Out or know the Demetrius Walker story, it’s a cautionary tale: an ultra-talented middle school kid who blew up amongst recruiting hype artists and never was able to meet the unreachable expectations set upon him.

In eighth grade he was profiled in Sports Illustrated with the title, “The Next LeBron?” Walker ended up playing Division I basketball at three different schools before eventually being kicked off the Grand Canyon University team as a senior. He never ‘made it’, but did he ever really have the chance to?

When we take about someone in grade school like they’re an NBA All-Star, we’re setting them up for failure. Just because someone is good at a young age doesn’t mean they’ll be great when they’re older. When you put so much pressure and expectations on a kid, that hype can easily become a reason they fail. 

Or what about Taylor King? One of the first pre-high school players ever to be invited to the prestigious ABCD Camp, he committed to UCLA before he played a minute of high school basketball, ended up going to Duke, transferred from Duke after one season, ended up at Villanova where he was eventually kicked off the team, and finishing his career at NAIA school Concordia.

King and Walker are on the severe end of the spectrum, but they are two of the most hyped young players ever, and it didn’t turn out well. When you are applauded nationally at such a young age for your athletic gifts, like a child actor, it creates an almost impossible path to follow.

Just Let The Kids Play

But in the end it’s not the kid’s fault. They’re just playing basketball. It's the adults around them that are creating the problem.

It’s the hype train, the desire to get as many video views as you can, to be the first to see a guy, to not have the player noticed but to be noticed for finding the player.

And until that stops, until kids are just allowed to play, and until a great crossover move from a seventh grader doesn’t turn into college scholarship talk, then this will continue.

So when you’re at a youth basketball game, try this:

  1. Put your video camera down
  2. Close out of the social media on your phone
  3. Just watch and cheer for the kids.

Watch for the love of the game.

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