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LeBron vs. Carmelo: The story of their epic first battle

On the eve of a game that pitted high school basketball’s two best players against each other, Carmelo Anthony’s coach spotted something he did not like.

Steve Smith worried that Carmelo had grown too close to LeBron James to be at his sharpest for the highly anticipated 2002 showdown between Oak Hill Academy and St. Vincent-St. Mary.

Each time Smith came downstairs at the Pennsylvania hotel where both teams stayed, he found Carmelo and LeBron in the lobby laughing with one another or deep in conversation. The two phenoms chatted late into the night about their common experiences, from growing up in neighborhoods rife with gunfire and blaring sirens, to finding salvation in basketball, to having to rapidly adjust to the perks and pitfalls of teenage superstardom.