CC watched LeBron in high school: 'It was insane'

June 7th, 2020

In a wide-ranging interview on the Ringer's BS Podcast on Friday, former All-Star left-hander  discussed the first time he ever saw LeBron James play basketball. Sabathia was pitching in the Indians organization and James was at St. Vincent-St. Mary's High School in Akron, Ohio.

"I think LeBron might have been in the 10th grade at that time," Sabathia told podcast host Bill Simmons. "... Our head trainer [with the Indians], Paul Spicuzza, was a high school and AAU referee, and they used to bring all of the top Indians prospects ... to Cleveland in January for this thing called Winter Development. ... And Paul said, 'You gotta see this guy play' ... He told me [James'] whole freshman year, 'You've gotta see him play, you've gotta see him play.'

"[One day] he said, 'He's playing across the street, like right here, we can just walk over there; let's go see him play.' So I walked over, went to see [James] play, and he was literally what he is now: a grown man."

Sabathia spoke of how awe-struck he was at James' game, adding that "you could just see that he was going to be a superstar at that age ... He was gonna be the guy. It was insane to watch him."

Basketball isn't the only sport Sabathia was able to see James play in those early years.

"I got to see him play football a couple times," Sabathia said. "He was a great receiver. He could've easily [played in the NFL] if he wanted to. He was fun to watch, and it was fun to be up there at that time in Northeast Ohio watching him do his thing."

Sabathia also said how much he admires James' life off the basketball court, citing his community involvement and the importance he places on his family, as well as the difficulty of being in such a bright spotlight as a teenager. Being a professional athlete himself, and also sharing in common with James a childhood in which he was raised by a single mother, Sabathia praised James' ability to come through on the court and off.

"To me, [James] is the only athlete that was under that much pressure at 15 or 16 years old and delivered," Sabathia said. "Whatever 'delivering' is -- won a championship in Cleveland, he's got three [championship] rings. He's one of the best players on the planet.

"There's never been a guy on the cover of Sports Illustrated at that age who has been able to deliver."