An NBA general manager sat in a near-empty press room, studying the boxscore.
LeBron James, the kid they called the greatest high school player ever, had just witnessed his first professional action at the Boston Shaw Summer League.
"How do you think he'll do as a rookie?", a reporter asked the official after watching James' solid but unspectacular debut.
"The expectations are so high, there's no way he'll be able to please people," the general manager replied
But a funny thing happened the ensuing season. James not only met our expectations, but far surpassed them.
The teen known as "King James" joined Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan as the only players to average at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists as a rookie. His mature physique and world-class athleticism wowed opponents, media and fans alike, while a mental makeup for greatness drew him comparisons to decorated players like Magic and Michael.
By his second campaign in the league, James was already a starter for the Eastern Conference All-Star Team, and became just the fifth player in NBA history to average at least 25 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists for an entire season. Observers openly debated if he was the best player in the NBA, and then marveled at the fact that a player so young was at the center of such conversation.
This season, the true impact of James' presence on the court can't be defined by the 30-plus points per game he's averaged, or any other individual number for that matter. Rather, the most telling stat is 18 and 10 – the current mark of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who went from a .207 winning percentage the season before James' arrival to now owning the second-best record in the East.
Is it possible a championship could be in sight for a franchise that's never achieved such glory? If there's anyone who can help the Cleveland defy expectations, it's James – the new No. 23. And that's why LeBron James is our HANNspree Innovative Player of the Month for January.