Emoni Bates is basketball’s next teenage phenom: ‘Better than LeBron’

Some teenage phenoms, such as LeBron James, live up to the insane hype assigned to them, while others end up like Freddy Adu.

The world will be watching to see how 15-year-old hoopster Emoni Bates handles the pressure — because he’s already being compared to one of the best ever.

“In the best freshman conversation, he’s 1,” a veteran of the grassroots basketball scene told ESPN.com. “He’s better than LeBron as a freshman. Bron was good, real good. Emoni is dominant.”

“He has a chance to be ahead of LeBron. I’ve never seen a better freshman,” a longtime scout told the website. “He’s a prospect that’s dominant as a ninth-grader. That’s rare. Normally prospects are guys with high upside or potential that you haven’t fulfilled. His potential is high, but he’s doing it now.”

Bates, a native of Ypsilanti, Mich., is a 6-foot-8 forward ranked as the top prospect in the class of 2022. As another youth basketball observer explained to ESPN, Bates has “size, skill, killer mentality, shooting ability,” a combination the person has never seen out of a player Bates’ age.

The rising sophomore led Lincoln High School in Michigan to its first state title last season and dazzled at the Nike Peach Jam amateur showcase last month, averaging 32.3 points, 10 rebounds and four assists per game.

Should the NBA eliminate its one-and-done rule, allowing high school players to once again go straight into the draft, Bates likely would be the No. 1 pick in the 2022 draft. One person told ESPN that Bates could’ve even gone No. 1 this year ahead of the electric Zion Williamson.

“If he put his name in this past draft, he probably would have gone 1,” a grassroots veteran said. “In all future drafts, if he was in them, he’d go 1. He’s a loaded lottery ticket.”

Another observer, who works for a shoe company, dropped Kevin Durant’s name when discussing Bates. “I’m not saying he’s Durant. I’m saying his projection is higher than Durant’s was,” the person said.

There’s some concern about Bates playing against kids his age instead of older players, and some wondering how Bates will handle the attention.

“Bates is definitely among the upper tier of guys I’ve seen at the same stage of development and age,” a longtime evaluator told ESPN. “As good as he is (and can be, no doubt), I do have a sense that some folks — and it happens so much in this social-media-driven era of basketball — are rushing to anoint him as ‘the next best thing,’ ‘best since LeBron,’ etc.

“I am more of the mind to pump the brakes a bit, and let’s follow his development and let’s see how he continues to grow as a player, as well as let’s see how he (and those around him) react as the hype and adulation reach absurd levels even before he’s played his first game as a high school sophomore.”