Reign Man

Originally Published: October 24, 2003
By By Cal Fussman | ESPN The Magazine
Editor's note: The King is dead. Long live The King. Those words, used to signal a royal turnover in old England, seem equally appropriate for the new NBA.

For one thing, Michael Jordan is gone for good (or so it appears). For another, LeBron James arrives with the rather presumptuous nickname of King James, wearing the same number (23) and carrying the same company -- Nike -- as Michael. To crown it off, James is expected to carry the league the way Jordan did, a seemingly impossible task for an 18-year-old kid stuck playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

And yet ... he has the body of Karl Malone, the handle of Magic, the magnetism of, yes, Michael Jordan. What he could really use is a little more patience -- on our part. But there's no turning back now. The fanfare has started. This is Year 1 of the reign of King James, and on the eve of his ascension, we sent Cal Fussman to talk with a few of his subjects.