Who Is LeBron James?
LeBron James is an American basketball player with the Los Angeles Lakers. James first garnered national attention as the top high school basketball player in the country. With his unique combination of size, athleticism and court vision, he became a four-time NBA MVP. After leading the Miami Heat to titles in 2012 and 2013, James returned to Cleveland and helped the franchise claim its first championship in 2016.
Early Life and High School Basketball Career
James was born on December 30, 1984, in Akron, Ohio. At an early age, James showed a natural talent for basketball. He was recruited by St. Vincent-St. Mary High School to join their basketball team in 1999. Overall, James scored 2,657 points, 892 rebounds and 523 assists during his four years there.
As a freshman, James averaged 18 points per game. He helped the team to a Division III state title by scoring 25 points in the championship game. Word of his advanced basketball skills spread, and James received several honors for his performance.
As a high school sophomore, James was chosen for the USA Today All-USA First Team. He was the first sophomore ever selected for this award. His team also won the Division III state title for the second year in a row.
The following school year, James was named PARADE magazine's High School Boys Basketball Player of the Year and Gatorade Player of the Year. Following the end of his junior year, James was such a strong player that he contemplated going pro.
Deciding to finish his education, James had a tremendous senior year on the court. He averaged 31.6 points per game, helping his team clinch their third state title. The St. Vincent-St. Mary High School team also earned the top national ranking that year. James would soon emerge as one of the National Basketball Association's leading players.
With his impressive record, it was no surprise that James was the first player picked in the 2003 NBA Draft straight out of high school. The Cleveland Cavaliers signed the powerful young forward, and he proved to be a valuable addition to the then-struggling franchise. The team had ended the previous season in eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
During the 2003-04 season, James made history when he became the first member of the Cavalier franchise to win the NBA Rookie of the Year Award. He also became the youngest player — at only 20 years old — to receive this honor.
Additionally, James, averaging 20 points per game at this time, became one of only three rookies to accomplish this feat, putting him in the same company as Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson.
James continued to excel professionally in the NBA the following season, upping his average points per game to 27.2. He made NBA history again in 2005 when he became the youngest player to score more than 50 points in one game.
In 2006, James helped his team defeat the Washington Wizards in the first round of playoff action. From there, the Cavaliers took on the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference semifinals. James scored an average of 26.6 per game in this postseason matchup, but it wasn't enough to secure victory for his team. While his team wasn't at the top of the rankings, James himself continued to receive special recognition for his abilities.
In 2006, James reached a new contract agreement with the Cavaliers. The team proved to be stronger competitors the following season, defeating Detroit to win the Eastern Conference. In the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, however, the Cavaliers lost their championship bid in four consecutive games.
During the 2007-08 season, James continued to help the Cavaliers improve their standing in the Eastern Conference. The team made it to the semifinals, where they were defeated by the Boston Celtics in seven games. In terms of individual performance, James had a stellar year, outperforming such rival players as Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson by scoring an average of 30 points per game, the highest average in the NBA regular season.
Early in the 2008-09 season, sports journalists and fans began talking about James' future in the sport. He had the option to become a free agent in 2010, and there was much discussion as to where James would end up. Some journalists identified the New York Knicks as a potential suitor for the rising player.
James made several references to his impending free-agent status, but he was sure to downplay the matter. "I am focused on the team that I am on right now and winning a championship ... I don't think about making a change at this point," James told reporters.
Shortly after becoming a free agent, James announced that he would be joining the Miami Heat for the 2010-11 season. His fans in Cleveland were less than pleased, and many considered his departure a betrayal to his hometown.
Soon after James' announcement, Cleveland Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert wrote an open letter declaring James' decision as "selfish," "heartless" and a "cowardly betrayal." Unfazed, James finished second in the league during his first season with the Heat, scoring 26.7 points per game.
The 2011-12 season saw major success for James and the Miami Heat. With his team's victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals, the superstar forward finally earned his first title. In the clinching Game 5, James scored 26 points, and had 11 rebounds and 13 assists. "I made a difficult decision to leave Cleveland, but I understood what my future was about," James told FOX Sports following the game. "I knew we had a bright future [in Miami]."
During the 2012-13 season, James made NBA history yet again: On January 16, 2013, at age 28, he became the youngest player to score 20,000 points, succeeding Bryant of the Lakers — who accomplished this feat when he was 29 — and becoming only the 38th player in NBA history to achieve this distinction. James made a jump shot the final seconds of the game, bringing his scoring total 20,001 and leading the Heat to a 92-75 victory over the Warriors.
Success followed the Heat to the end of the 2012-13 season: Following a hard-fought, six-game series against the Indiana Pacers to win the Eastern Conference, Miami outlasted the San Antonio Spurs in seven games to win its second consecutive NBA championship.
At the culmination of the 2013-14 season, Miami returned to the NBA Finals to face off against the Spurs again, this time losing to San Antonio after five games.
Return to Cleveland Cavaliers
In July of 2014, after opting out of his contract with the Heat and considering other teams, James announced that he would be returning to the Cavaliers.
Hampered by back and knee problems, James missed 13 of 82 regular-season games in 2014-15. However, he was as dominant as ever when healthy, averaging 25.3 points and 7.4 assists per game. James led the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals, becoming the first player in nearly 50 years to reach the championship round in five consecutive seasons. However, injuries to star teammates Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving damaged his hopes of claiming a third title, and the Cavaliers lost to the Golden State Warriors in six games.
Over the course of 2015-16, the Cavs overcame the distraction of a mid-season coaching change and breezed through the playoffs to earn a rematch with the Warriors, marking the sixth straight NBA Finals appearance for "King James." In perhaps the crowning achievement of his career, he led his team back from a 3-1 deficit, scoring 41 points in both Games 5 and 6, before recording a triple-double in Game 7 to give the Cavs their first championship in franchise history.
Voted Finals MVP, James said, "I came back to bring a championship to our city. I knew what I was capable of doing. I knew what I learned in the last couple years that I was gone, and I knew if I had to — when I came back — I knew I had the right ingredients and the right blueprint to help this franchise get back to a place that we've never been. That's what it was all about."
The following year, James again paced himself and took charge when necessary, driving the Cavs through the Eastern Conference to make an incredible seventh consecutive appearance in the NBA Finals. This time, with former MVP Kevin Durant added to the mix, the Warriors proved too formidable for James and his teammates, claiming the championship in five games.
For all his accomplishments, James achieved another first early in the 2017-18 NBA season: After yelling at a referee during a late November win over the Heat, he was ejected for the first time in 1,082 career games.
The superstar likely felt like yelling often during the course of a frustrating campaign, as an offseason trade that sent Irving to Boston for Isaiah Thomas failed to bear fruit and forced the Cavs to make another major deal before the All-Star break.
After averaging a career-best 9.1 assists in the regular season, James had to dig deep just to get the team out of the first round of the playoffs, delivering a brilliant 45-point effort to sink the Pacers in Game 7. The Cavs were again pushed to the limit two rounds later by the scrappy Celtics, but James scored 81 points over the last two games to pull out the series win and make his eighth straight NBA Finals appearance.
Game 1 of the rematch against Golden State went down to the wire, thanks to James's 51-point outburst, but Cleveland guard J.R. Smith inexplicably dribbled out the clock with the game tied in regulation, before the Warriors pulled away for the win in overtime. That represented the Cavs' best chance to get a leg up on their opponents, as the Warriors won the next three games handily to claim their third title in four years.
Afterward, with questions swirling about his future with the team, James revealed that he had played out the series with a broken right hand after punching a whiteboard in the aftermath of the Game 1 loss.
Los Angeles Lakers
On July 1, 2018, James announced that he was moving on to the next chapter of his career by signing a 4-year, $153.3 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, a storied franchise that counted Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson among its all-time greats.
The good vibes had worn off by midseason, as the Lakers sputtered through a 17-game stretch without their injured star.
With the team still struggling in late February 2019, James accused his teammates of losing focus over trade rumors, saying, "If you're still allowing distractions to affect the way you play, this is the wrong franchise to be a part of and you should just come in and be like, 'Listen, I can't do this.'"
When the Lakers were officially eliminated from playoff contention in March 2019, it snapped James' personal marks of 13 consecutive postseasons and eight straight NBA Finals appearances. Capping a difficult first season in Los Angeles, the Lakers announced that their star would miss the final six games because of his lingering groin injury.
Things got off to a much better start the following season, thanks in large part to the addition of athletic big man Anthony Davis to the roster. Spearheading the Lakers' rise to the top of the standings was James, who became the first player to record a triple-double against all 30 NBA teams in November 2019.
The following month, James added another accolade to his ever-growing list by earning AP Male Athlete of the Decade honors.
Championships and Rings
James participated in eight straight NBA championships from the 2010-11 season to the 2018-19 season. During that time, he captured three championship rings: twice with the Heat (2011-12 and 2012-13) and once with the Cavaliers (2015-16).
All-Star Games and MVPs
James was selected for the NBA All-Star Game for the first time in 2005 and would go on to earn a spot in the annual showcase in each of the next 15 seasons.
In January 2018, the NBA announced that James and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry had topped the ballots and would serve as captains for that year's All-Star Game.
In 2006, James was named the Most Valuable Player in the NBA All-Star Game, a feat he would repeat in 2008 and 2018. James has also been named NBA MVP four times, in seasons 2008-09, 2009-10, 2011-12 and 2012-13.
Stats and Points
In January 2018, at age 33, James surpassed Bryant as the youngest player to accumulate 30,000 career points and became the seventh player in NBA history to achieve that milestone. The feat put him just more than 8,000 points shy of Abdul-Jabbar's all-time record of 38,387 points.
In 2019, James surpassed Jordan's career tally of 32,292 points to move into fourth place on the all-time list. In January 2020, he eclipsed Bryant's total of 33,643 points to slide into third place, one night before his predecessor's shocking death in a helicopter accident.
After 16 NBA seasons, James' stats included regular season per-game averages of:
- 27.2 points
- 38.6 minutes
- 0.736 free-throw percentage
- 0.343 3-point field-goal percentage
- 0.504 field-goal percentage
- 1.2 offensive rebounds
- 6.2 defensive rebounds
- 7.2 assists
- 0.8 blocks
- 1.6 steals
- 3.5 turnovers
James competed on the U.S. Olympic basketball team during three Summer Olympic Games, in 2004, 2008 and 2012. James made his Olympic debut at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, Greece. He and his teammates won bronze medals after defeating Lithuania. Argentina took home the gold after beating Italy in the finals.
In the summer of 2008, James traveled to Beijing, China, to play with the likes of Bryant, Jason Kidd and Dwyane Wade on the U.S. Olympic basketball team. This time around the U.S. team brought home the gold after defeating Spain in the final round.
James competed at his third Olympic Games in 2012, at the Summer Olympics in London, along with Durant, Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and several other top players. The U.S. basketball team took the gold medal — James' second consecutive Olympic gold.
Contract With Nike
In 2003, James signed several endorsement deals, including a deal with Nike for $90 million that could net him over $1 billion over his lifetime.
Other endorsements include Intel, Verizon, Coca-Cola, Beats by Dre and Kia Motors.
Salary and Earnings
In the 2016-17 season, James collected a $31 million salary, making him the third player to earn that much after Jordan and Bryant. The NBA superstar went on to sign a four-year, $153.3 million contract with the Lakers in July 2018. He’s also a co-owner of the production company SpringHill Entertainment and has invested in Blaze Pizza.
In February 2019, Forbes magazine's estimated James’ yearly earnings at $88.7 million, making him the NBA's highest-earning player for the fifth year in a row.
Wife and Kids
On January 1, 2012, James proposed to his high school sweetheart, Savannah Brinson. The couple married in a private ceremony with about 200 guests in San Diego on September 14, 2013.
James and Brinson have two sons and one daughter together. In October 2004, James welcomed his first son LeBron Jr. On June 14, 2007, Brinson gave birth to their second son, Bryce Maximus James. Their third child, daughter Zhuri James, was born on October 22, 2014.
LeBron James Family Foundation
Outside of the NBA, James has worked to help others. He established the LeBron James Family Foundation in 2004, along his mother Gloria, to help out children and single-parent families in need.
Among its many programs, the organization builds playgrounds in economically disadvantaged areas and hosts an annual bike-a-thon.
Outspoken Posts on Social Media
One of the world's most recognizable athletes, James hasn't been shy about expressing his views on social media. Among other issues, he displayed his support for Trayvon Martin after the teen's death in 2012, and he has clashed with U.S. President Donald Trump.
James waded into delicate territory in October 2019, after Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey posted a tweet in support of Hong Kong's pro-democracy protesters that ignited a Chinese media boycott of NBA preseason games in the country. James said he believed Morey was "misinformed" about the situation, although he later tweeted that he mainly took issue with the executive posting comments that could have exposed traveling players to danger.
The basketball superstar has also shown a playful side on social media, such as when he posted a picture of cartoon character Arthur clenching his first during the Cavaliers' slow start to the 2017-18 season.
'Space Jam 2'
James starred in Space Jam 2, the 2021 sequel to the 1996 hit starring Jordan. "The Space Jam collaboration is so much more than just me and the Looney Tunes getting together and doing this movie,” James told The Hollywood Reporter.
“It's so much bigger. I'd just love for kids to understand how empowered they can feel and how empowered they can be if they don't just give up on their dreams."
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