James lives up to hype, wins rookie of the year

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

CLEVELAND -- LeBron James won the NBA Rookie of the Year award Tuesday, capping a remarkable season in which he revived the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The 19-year-old guard more than lived up to unprecedented hype in jumping straight from high school to the pros, becoming the youngest player to receive the award.

James, last year's No. 1 overall draft pick, beat out Denver's Carmelo Anthony, his close friend. Anthony, also 19, played one season of college basketball, leading Syracuse to the NCAA championship.

At a news conference at Gund Arena, James thanked Anthony.

"I really felt like it was going to be a close race," James said. "He had a phenomenal season also."

James received 508 points, including 78 of a possible 118 first-place votes, to become the first Cleveland rookie honored.

Anthony finished with 430 points -- with the other 40 first-place votes -- in balloting by sports writers and broadcasters. Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat was third with 117 points.

Players received 5 points for a first-place vote, 3 for second and 1 for third. Chicago's Kirk Hinrich, Toronto's Chris Bosh and Dallas' Marquis Daniels also got votes.

Amare Stoudemire of the Phoenix Suns won last season's award, becoming the first player to do so after turning pro directly from high school.

James came straight out of high school, too. But that's where the similarities end.

He 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 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.

Anthony had similar numbers (21 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists) and led the Nuggets to the playoffs a year after they went 17-65.

The Cavaliers had the same record last season. With James, they went 35-47 and finished ninth in the Eastern Conference, one spot out of the playoffs.

James helped the Cavs' average home attendance jump from 11,497 to 18,288 -- the highest increase in history for a team that didn't move into a new building.

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