LeBron James had arguably the most decorated high school basketball career in history at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, in Akron, Ohio. His teams went 81-1, capturing three state championships and setting the tone for his time in the NBA.
However, amid his glory, the Roger Bacon High School basketball team from Cincinnati gave James a run for his money in 2002, ending his undefeated streak and what would have been a third consecutive state championship.
Twenty years later, Sunday’s SportsCenter “SC Featured” segment “The Chosen Ones” explores the story of the Roger Bacon team that pulled off the seemingly impossible feat and the aftermath of one of Ohio’s most unforgettable prep basketball games. The feature, produced by ESPN feature producer Luis Aldea and content producer Joshua Kramer, will debut in the 8 a.m. ET hour of SportsCenter on Sunday, March 13.
Aldea and Kramer spoke with Front Row:
What inspired you to highlight this story 20 years later?
Kramer: Growing up in the Cincinnati area, I remember waking up the morning after this game took place and being utterly shocked. This game lives in folklore in Ohio but isn’t well-known nationally. High school sports are a huge deal; people take great pride in their school’s sports teams. My high school basketball coach, Bill Brewer, was the coach that won the 2002 state championship and is the only Ohio coach to defeat LeBron. Sadly, Coach Brewer passed away suddenly from a heart attack. I wanted this story to be shared nationally to highlight this amazing accomplishment of defeating LeBron James and honor Coach Brewer, his family, and friends.
What was the production process like?
Aldea: We spent a week in Cleveland and Cincinnati interviewing all the key players, from coaches to announcers of the telecast. Many of the players were honored for their state title win 20 years ago. We got all the Roger Bacon players for a reunion to watch the game at a local sports bar.
What was your most memorable moment from the 2002 game?
Kramer: In the game’s final play, a Roger Bacon player throws down a dunk as time expires in the fourth quarter. Though the play had no real impact on the game’s outcome, it was one of those iconic moments that put a smile on your face.
What do you want viewers to take from this story?
Aldea: From the outside, the expectation was that LeBron and Saint Vincent Saint Mary would win their third straight Ohio State Championship in 2002. The main takeaway is that it’s a story of perseverance. Any player, any team can be beaten on any given game day; even arguably the greatest basketball player ever can and has lost.
Also, the game of basketball bonded these former basketball players from 20 years ago, and their friendship hasn’t changed a bit.
James’ Los Angeles Lakers play the Phoenix Suns Sunday (8 p.m., ESPN).
For more on “SC Featured,” visit ESPN PressRoom.