You Heard It Here First: Gatorade POY Emoni Bates Is LeBron James Special

Emoni Bates became the only sophomore to ever win National Gatorade Player of the Year. The 6-foot-9,16-year-old is a freakish sight to behold and conjures memories of some of the greatest high school hoop stars of any era. 

 

Now that he’s received national accolades people will finally start getting on the bandwagon and singing his praises as the next big thing. But I knew about this phenom since last season when he was tearing cats to shreds as a freshman at Lincoln High School in Ypsilanti, Michigan. 

It was Champ Guru our Shadow League NBA insider from Detroit, that hipped me to the greatness of Emoni Bates. I didn’t hear about this kid from any of basketball’s anointed movers and shakers who will eventually receive the credit for co-signing this incredible talent. 

Sure the go-to pubs like Ballislife and Slam were following his journey as they do all of the top-rated hoops players, but Bates still has some non-believers out there. Champ, however, isn’t one of them.

Champ went on ESPN radio last year with Stephen A. and told the media star’s millions of followers and listeners that Bates — who led his HS to the State championship as a freshman — was as good as LeBron James or Chris Webber at this stage.  

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It was hyperbole to most, especially coming from Champ, who has ruffled the feathers of ESPN audiences in the past by refusing to put LeBron James in his Top 10 all-time players. That’s another story for another podcast, but Champ continues to have a shrewd eye and unique vision when it comes to hoops.  

Better Than Bron

Bates – rated as the nation’s top prep player – is now the fourth player to win the award from Michigan joining Torbert, Chris Webber (Detroit Country Day, 1990-1991) and LaVell Blanchard (Ann Arbor Pioneer, 1998-1999).

The award, which has been given to the nation’s best player since 1986, puts Bates in an exclusive group of basketball bullies, placing him in the same realm at this point in his career as NBA greats Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and Jayson Tatum, who is cool with Bates.

Past winners of the honor have combined for five NBA MVPs, 69 All-Stars nominations and 26 first-round draft picks.

Like Biggie said, “ Sky is the limit.”

 

Melo Ball’s Rise

As far as Champ goes, he’s the same guy that was singing Melo Ball’s praises when the kid was at Spire institute and everyone was still bashing Lavar for letting his teenage son go overseas to play with grown men. Melo wasn’t anywhere on the mainstream radar as a potential lottery pick, but Champ said he was going to not only be a Top 3 pick, but also a brand that could live up to the hype of his celebrity. 

Ball,18, is positioning himself for such blessings and is also in negotiations to become the youngest majority owner in sports by leading a group that intends to purchase the NBL team he played for this past season, Illawarra Hawks

There’s been a list of blue chippers over the past half decade that were highly touted and considered possible candidates to take the baton from Lebron James. Bates might be that guy and if he is, then you heard it here first.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.