LeBron James: undeniably one of the NBA’s top 10 players.
Roger Cumberbatch discusses James’s illustrious NBA career as part of our ongoing series on basketball greats.
Greatness in athletics is achieved by some, and bestowed upon others. When people refer to you as “the King,” you better live up to the billing. Even as a high school student, it was clear that Lebron James was destined for greatness.
Is there any other high school sports team whose games were being shown on national television? Never before have young athletes like Peyton Manning, Sydney Crosby, Kobe, and Michael Jordan been subjected to such intense monitoring of their playing careers. We can confidently say that LeBron has not only lived up to but exceeded our high expectations.
LeBron James’s ability to come through in clutch situations is just one of the many reasons why he is widely considered to be one of the NBA’s all-time greats.
Lebron James – The Early Days
Lebron James’s mother Gloria worked multiple jobs to support the family and moved the family frequently as she tried to make ends meet, dragging James along with them. Gloria raised Lebron in a rough section of Akron, Ohio, after his father abandoned the family. The man had a lengthy criminal record and was thus effectively absent from the boy’s life.
James’ mother saw that the only way for her son to have a future was to send him away to a secure location. Lebron joined the family of a high school football coach when he was 9 years old. After James’s coach had introduced him to the sport of basketball, the rest, as they say, was history.
Moving forward to high school, Lebron’s greatness at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School was evident even as a freshman. James led the Fighting Irish in scoring at 21.0 points per game and was also responsible for 6.0 rebounds on the defensive end. With Lebron on the team, the Irish would win three division titles in four seasons.
LeBron James scored 31 points in his first nationally televised game on December 12, 2002.
The 5,000-seat arena was always packed, games were shown nationally on ESPN2, and cable giant Time-Warner offered locals pay-per-view subscriptions to all of the Fighting Irish’s games thanks to LeBron’s mystique.
Pro debut: LeBron James joins the NBA
It came as no surprise that LeBron James would be selected first overall in the 2003–2004 NBA Draft. James, who grew up in Cleveland, was selected by the Cavaliers in a draft that also featured Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.
James was the first player in Cavaliers history to win NBA Rookie of the Year. He finished his rookie season averaging 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists.
Lebron had a promising future ahead of him and was already making strides toward greatness, but he still had a ways to go.
The only bright spot in Cleveland’s disastrous 35-47 season (they missed the playoffs) was an increase of 18 victories compared to the previous year.
James had a 56-point outburst as a sophomore in the NBA, and his scoring average went up to 27 points per game.
Though the Cavaliers finished with a better-than-average 42-40 record in the regular season thanks in large part to LeBron’s stellar individual performance, they were still left out of the playoffs.
The Cavaliers made the playoffs for the first time since 1988 in LeBron’s third season in the league. After sweeping the Washington Wizards in five games, Cleveland was swept out of the playoffs by the Detroit Pistons.
James was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2006 NBA All-Star Game after averaging 31.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game during the regular season.
LeBron’s scoring average dropped in 2007, but he still led the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals, where they lost to the San Antonio Spurs.
Because the Spurs forced James to become a jump shooter, at which he is not particularly adept, he averaged just 22 points, 7 rebounds, and 6.8 assists per game in the series.
Over the next three years, LeBron would rack up even more personal accolades and success, but his team would once again fall short of the NBA Finals and then the second round. When James played his final game for the Cavaliers, he put up a triple-double (27 points, 19 rebounds, and 10 assists) that would have been impressive under normal circumstances. LeBron had 9 turnovers and eventually moved to Miami.
On national television, James announced his decision to join the Miami Heat.
The signing, which was dubbed “The Decision,” caused controversy throughout the NBA, but especially in Cleveland, where LeBron grew up. Fans protested James’ decision to leave by burning posters and jerseys bearing his likeness, expressing their sadness through tears and rioting.
Yet he voluntarily made that decision. As a free agent, he signed with the Miami Heat, where he won two NBA titles alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Here is a collection of 11 examples of The World was blown away by LeBron James’s talent.
I’m Coming Home
Cleveland’s prodigal son came home on June 25, 2014. Lebron returned to the Cavaliers, his childhood team, and eventually led them to an NBA title in 2016.
James’s spectacular chase-down block in Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors helped rally the Cleveland Cavaliers from a 3-1 series deficit to win the championship in seven games.
By hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy in 2016, they were able to erase the painful memories of “The Decision,” their playoff exits in the first round, and their 4-0 drubbing at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs in the 2016 NBA Finals.
Going to Cali – LeBron and The Lakers
LeBron’s second stint with the Cavaliers ended in 2018 due to the team’s injury woes. James uprooted his life to join the Los Angeles Lakers, the NBA’s second most successful team all-time (Boston is first).
It will take time for LeBron’s greatness to be fully realized. If you’re looking for another way to enjoy the NBA, you may want to check out our Basketball Betting Guide. It’s no longer a question of whether or not LeBron James belongs on the list of the Greatest Players in NBA History now that he’s a member of the Los Angeles Lakers; rather, the question is simply where he ranks.