LeBron James struggled with sudden fame after appearing on Sports Illustrated's cover as a 17-year-old and admits he smoked marijuana during his junior year in high school.
Those are two of the revelations in a book chronicling James' rise from Akron, Ohio, hoops prodigy to NBA superstar.
In "Shooting Stars," written by James and co-author Buzz Bissinger, James said the SI cover and the media attention he and his high school teammates received was difficult to handle.
"We had become big-headed jerks, me in particular," James said, "and we are to blame for that, but so are adults who treated us that way and then sat back and smugly watched the self-destruction."
In the book, scheduled for release in September, the NBA's reigning MVP recounts the media circus that enveloped his final two years at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School following his SI cover appearance. James said he and close friends Dru Joyce, Sian Cotton, Romeo Travis and Willie McGee - nicknamed the Fab Five - became "rock stars" and took advantage of their celebrity.
"I was arrogant, dubbing myself "The Chosen One," James said. "In hindsight, I should have kept quiet, but I also was what I was, a teenager where every reporter in the world seemed to be rushing toward me at once."
James also revealed he and his teammates smoked marijuana one night after getting access to a hotel room in Akron.
James feels he was unfairly targeted by the media, which he described as "excited spectators at a car crash" after it was learned that his mother, Gloria, obtained a loan to buy him a $50,000 Hummer for his birthday. He said the scrutiny was humiliating for his mother, who was living with him in a rental-assistance apartment.
"Was the vehicle excessive, with its bank of three televisions? Maybe. Probably. Of course it was," James said. "So were the BMWs parked in the St. V lot, belonging to fellow students. But nobody ever questioned those."
James also recounts being suspended by the Ohio High School Athletic Association for accepting two throwback jerseys as gifts from a Cleveland area clothing store. He describes the OHSAA as "ravenous" and is highly critical of former commissioner Clair Muscaro.
James said Muscaro, whose suspension of him was later reduced in court, wanted to put James and his school "in our place. ... "this was a witch hunt, one-man posse's attempt to humiliate me, subject me to ridicule, rip open rumors that I was corrupt and ruin a dream."
James said the experiences drew him and his friends closer and proved to be valuable life lessons, many of which he attributes to "karma."
James and Bissinger focus almost entirely on James' final two years of high school and do not delve into his early career with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Bissinger is best known for "Friday Night Lights," a bestseller on Texas' obsession with high school football.
By TOM WITHERS
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