By BETH HARRIS, AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) - LeBron James, already a professional athlete with endorsement deals worth more than $100 million, was honored Wednesday as the inaugural Gatorade national high school athlete of the year.
By comparison, girls winner Allyson Felix, a sprinter from Los Angeles who ran the fastest 200 meters in the world this year, recently wished she had extra money to go shopping.
James (pictured, above) lounged on a sofa with two friends while the other nominees and their families ate a fancy version of chicken pot pie.
He wore a T-shirt and sweat pants to the ceremony at an under-21 nightclub in Hollywood, while the other boys' nominees were dressed in shirts and ties.
He got off the sofa to accept a trophy from New Orleans Hornets guard Baron Davis, the 1997 national prep basketball player of the year.
"This is a big accomplishment," James said. "It tells me the hard work has finally paid off. It's probably the best award I've won."
James recently signed his three-year, $12.96 million rookie contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, who selected the 18-year-old No. 1 overall in the NBA draft. He also has a $90 million deal with Nike.
James was twice nominated at the ESPY Awards, held Wednesday night. He missed the Cavaliers' summer league game Wednesday to attend both ceremonies.
James recently took pre-game batting practice with the Cleveland Indians. He mostly swung and missed. It was the same way when he tried bowling at an ESPN party Tuesday night.
"I lost every game. I didn't like that," he said.
Davis, who left UCLA after his sophomore year to enter the NBA, said he isn't worried about James, who had family and friends, security and his publicist in tow.
"He has a good family, a good head on his shoulders. He's a good kid," Davis said. "He's going to make a lot of mistakes, but he has a level head and that's always going to keep him above."
James breezed through his acceptance speech.
"I'll keep this real short and simple," he said, thanking his mother Gloria "for bringing me up the right way and teaching me to know right from wrong," and his teammates and coaches at St. Vincent-St. Mary High in Akron, Ohio.
Gloria James snapped several pictures of her son and declined to speak to reporters.
Felix, who graduated from Los Angeles Baptist High in North Hills last month, has accepted a track scholarship to Southern California. She'll compete in the 200 at the world championships in Paris in August.
"It's such a privilege to receive this award," said Felix, who got her trophy from Los Angeles Sparks center Lisa Leslie. "I'm so excited to start the new part of my career."
James towered over the 5-foot-6 Felix when they posed for photographers. Asked how the media attention has changed their lives, James said, "This is my life."
"Basketball is my life and playing video games," he said.
Felix, on the other hand, talked about how she likes to shop and go to the movies.
"One of the nice things about being in track and field is that you're not as recognizable as somebody in basketball," said Paul Felix, Allyson's father. "We're really counting our blessings with what she's been able to accomplish and just the fact that she can still pretty much be a teenager."
The other boys nominees were: Kerron Clement, track and field, La Porte (Texas) High; Greg Dalby, soccer, Poway (Calif.) High; Chris Lubanski, baseball, Kennedy-Kenrick Catholic High, Schwenksville, Pa.; and Kyle Wright, football, Monte Vista High, Danville, Calif.
The other girls' nominees were: Lisa Dodd, softball, University City High, San Diego; Heather O'Reilly, soccer, East Brunswick (N.J.) High; Candace Parker, basketball, Naperville (Ill.) Central; and Kristin Richards, volleyball, Timpanogos High, Orem, Utah.
Each of the nominees won national player of the year awards in their respective sports.
For the first time in the program's 18-year history, Gatorade presented national athlete of the year honors to a male and female. A panel of national sports media chose the winners based on athletic performance, effect on team success and level of accomplishment.