Coming out of the Darko

NBA Insider Chad Ford spent a week wandering through Eastern Europe in search of the next international phenom. Check out his daily reports from Germany, Yugoslavia and Croatia.

Updated: February 12, 2003, 2:16 PM ET
By Chad Ford

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- It's 7:30 p.m. on Thursday night. Much of the U.S. is tuning in breathlessly to the first national broadcast on ESPN2 of a LeBron James high school basketball game. The general public is learning what NBA scouts and I have known for the last couple of years -- James is a phenom. A freak of nature. The type of kid that comes along once a decade. The total package.

It's not news. Had he come out last year, as a high school junior, chances are he seriously would have challenged Yao Ming to be the top pick in the draft. This year he's the undisputed No. 1 pick. NBA teams are tanking games as we speak to get their hands on him.

Chad Ford

ESPN Senior Writer