LeBron once told me that if he had gone to college he would’ve signed with the University of Akron, the hometown mid-major. The reasons, he said, were numerous. He loved Akron. Some of his high school teammates were going there. The clincher was that his first high school coach, Keith Dambrot, who had helped teach him the game, had become Akron’s head coach.
”Why not?” LeBron said, smiling.
It’s a quaint story. To this day Dambrot thinks he would’ve gotten him. Of course, LeBron has also said at other times he would’ve gone to a half-dozen different schools, so it probably wouldn’t have happened.
But that he even imagined the possibility was rare. Elite recruits aren’t aware enough to know their biggest impact could be at home, not at some far-off hoops factory, that their old coach and old teammates mean more than some smooth recruiting pitch, that turning the basketball world on its ear by doing something so daring and unique can be the coolest idea of them all.
They don’t get that the Dukes and UCLAs need them more than they need the Dukes and UCLAs.
The Akron story said something about LeBron James.
Or maybe it didn’t.