For most of us, there are very few moments where we have a chance to be rich. So when you blow one, it tends to stay with you for a while.
This is a story of how for a brief window in 2001, I knew something very, very few people knew. And could’ve profited from it a short time later. But I missed out.
In the spring of 2001, I was working at SLAM magazine, a monthly basketball bible for hard-core, and mostly young, hoop fans. Slam was, and is, a publication that combines hip hop and basketball, and needless to say it wasn’t exactly the perfect fit for me, a skinny Jewish kid from Long Island.
But anyway, one of the things SLAM specialized in was projecting the next big things; the 15 or 16-year-old high school kids who nobody knew about yet, but in the pages of SLAM would become stars. The magazine was way ahead of the curve on players like Stephon Marbury, O.J. Mayo, and Kobe Bryant.
So one day in the office, my colleague Ryan Jones was putting together our annual high school All-American team, picking the five best players in the country.
Ryan hung up the phone after one of many calls that day and turned to the rest of us (the whole “office” was one room, and four of us were crammed in there):
“Everybody’s talking about this sophomore from Ohio, named LeBron James,” Ryan said. I’ve never heard of the kid, but every single person I talked to says this kid has to be on our team.”
Ryan went on talking about how incredible people said this kid was (it was 2001, so getting video of the kid on the Internet wasn’t so easy), and how he was going to be the next huge star.
So as our All-Americans story was getting ready to run, I said to Ryan, “I wonder if this kid has a website yet.” So I checked around and saw that nope, no LeBronJames.com, no LeBronJames.net, nothing on the kid.
And it was at that moment that it clicked in my head:
I should go register those domain names. It was only like $9.99 a month, and if LeBron James is as good as everyone says he is, maybe one day I can sell those sites and make some cash. Sure, it was cyber-squatting, but I had no idea at that time that was a crime or anything. I figured I’d buy them, pay the fees for a while, and then sell them.
And I was going to do it. I really was. Except I never got around to it. Life got in the way, and I forgot about LeBron for a while, and it just sort of slipped my mind.
Fast forward a few years. I’d left SLAM, but obviously we’d been right about that kid from Ohio being really good. I was on a road trip for newspaper and was sitting in a coffee shop eating breakfast, reading USA Today.
I suddenly came across a story about a man from Arizona who just sold the domain name Lebron.net.
Yep. Nearly three-quarters of a million dollars, just for the rights to a web site. I immediately started doing the math in my head, as I slammed down my glass of O.J.: If I’d registered just a few of the LeBron-related sites, I could’ve been a millionaire.
I was pissed about it for a while. I still think about it every now and then, when I look at my bank balance or my paycheck. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not starving or anything.
But man … what that LeBron money would’ve been like. You get only so many of those moments, and I’ll always regret letting that one pass me by.