The 2003 Hummer H2 driven by LeBron James when he was in high school is now on the eBay auction block.
The customized vehicle, valued at more than $50,000 when the Heat forward received it as an 18th birthday present from his mother, is now being auctioned by Cleveland's Autos Direct Online with a "Buy It Now" price of $64,8000. Bidding had reached $41,100 as of Sunday afternoon.
James, a three-time Ohio Mr. Basketball and the No. 1 pick in the 2003 draft, was the subject of scrutiny during his high school career, as critics believed he was pursuing a professional lifestyle while still an amateur. He was briefly suspended by Ohio high school regulators when he accepted multiple throwback jerseys worth less than $1,000 during his senior season at St. Vincent-St. Mary, but it was the Hummer that stood as the symbol of James' unique status among his classmates. Gloria James reportedly secured a loan from a bank in Columbus to obtain the vehicle, even though she had lived in public housing, and regulators were concerned that James had been gifted the vehicle illegally by an agent or some other outside party.
Check out this gallery of images of the vehicle, which is outfitted with 28" custom rims, a DirecTV TracVision, a Sony Playstation 2, a custom JBL audio soundsystem, a custom chrome grill, and multiple television monitors. Serious bidders will be glad to know that the vehicle has only logged 28,117 miles.
The ludicrously massive vehicle stood for all of its owner as a symbol of purposeful opulence, and many critics couldn't reconcile the idea that James would drive to his games in such luxury while his opponents or teammates -- the yarn went -- were dropped off by their parents in budget cars or minivans, or riding in a rickety old team bus.
Sports Illustrated gave James' Hummer "This Week's Sign The Apocalypse Is Upon Us" treatment in the Jan. 20, 2003 issue, and Rick Reilly penned an article a few weeks later contrasting James with one of his teammates.
There was the high school god—6'8", 240-pound senior LeBron James—sitting on the bench. And here was the high school nobody—5'76", 150-pound junior Brandon Weems—taking James's spot in the starting lineup. If you squinted you could see a couple of slight differences.
James plans on being the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. Weems plans on watching the NBA draft. James drives a $75,000 Hummer. Weems doesn't have a car. He doesn't even have a license. James has a squadron of security guards, 781 listings bearing his name on eBay and a strict no-autographs-during-school policy. Weems also has a strict autograph policy: If anybody ever asks him, he plans on signing.
But Weems had one thing on Sunday that James did not—his high school eligibility.
CNN hosted a memorable roundtable discussion about the vehicle, which included "man on the street" interviews with people upset by the vehicle, and an in-studio viewer who said Gloria James was guilty of "bad judgment" in procuring the vehicle for her son.
"No one ever gave me a car, but I'm not 6-foot-8 with great moves to the hoop," one man opined.
A second man added: "Of course they need to investigate, because he ain't supposed to be having no Hummer, no, no, no."
The discussion around the Hummer took off in all sorts of directions. Some felt James shouldn't need to arbitrarily wait until he was out of high school to cash in on his success. Some, like Sports Illustrated's Jack McCallum in Oct. 2003, were concerned with how James, whose high school games had been televised by ESPN, would handle all the fame, fortune, attention and criticism that was coming his way. Some felt the suspension that was handed out was reminiscent of the so-called "sham of amateurism" that hangs over the NCAA. Some felt the media -- both local and national -- was persecuting James and that the intense coverage of his life was born of self-interest.
"It just points out the absurdity of a high school kid getting this kind of national attention because he's so much better than every high school kid and has a talent that the professionals want to trade on," former NBA All-Star and CBS commentator Len Elmore said on CNN. "I don't blame LeBron James himself one bit if he's going to capitalize on these skills. He's in a position to make double-digit million dollars before he even plays a professional game."
We're now a decade removed from all of those questions, and James has turned out just fine: two titles, four MVP awards, more than $129 million in NBA salary (and at least another $100 million on the way before he retires), hundreds of millions more in endorsements, you name it. He has grown bigger than just about everyone imagined, or feared, in 2003, and the $50,000 Hummer that once seemed so big -- and, to some, a big problem with society -- has been rendered a microscopic footnote.
Would the country still be outraged if the No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft pulled up to class in a luxury vehicle? Maybe, but certainly not with the same intensity, shock or outrage, and that makes this just one more game that James' emergence as a 21st century basketball megastar has changed. Photos via Autos Direct Online | Hat tip: Sportando.net