American basketball player
Top 10 LeBron James related articles
- 1 Early life
- 2 High school career
- 3 Professional career
- 3.1 Cleveland Cavaliers (2003–2010)
- 3.2 Miami Heat (2010–2014)
- 3.3 Return to the Cavaliers (2014–2018)
- 3.4 Los Angeles Lakers (2018–present)
- 4 National team career
- 5 Player profile
- 6 Legacy
- 7 Off the court
- 8 NBA career statistics
- 9 Awards and honors
- 10 Filmography
- 11 See also
- 12 Notes
- 13 References
- 14 Further reading
- 15 External links
LeBron Raymone James Sr. (//; born December 30, 1984) is an American professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Widely considered one of the greatest NBA players in history, James is frequently compared to Michael Jordan in debates over the greatest basketball player of all time. Playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, and Los Angeles Lakers, James is the only player in NBA history to have won NBA championships with three franchises as Finals MVP. He has competed in ten NBA Finals, including eight consecutive with the Heat and Cavaliers from 2011 through 2018. His accomplishments include four NBA championships, four NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) Awards, four Finals MVP Awards, and two Olympic gold medals. During his 17-year career, James holds the record for all-time playoffs points, is third in all-time points, and eighth in career assists. James has been selected to the All-NBA First Team a record 13 times, made the All-Defensive First Team five times, and has been named an All-Star 17 times, including three All-Star MVP selections.
James played basketball for St. Vincent–St. Mary High School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, where he was heavily touted by the national media as a future NBA superstar. A prep-to-pro, he was selected by Cleveland with the first overall pick of the 2003 NBA draft. Named the 2003–04 NBA Rookie of the Year, he soon established himself as one of the league's premier players, winning the NBA MVP Award in 2009 and 2010. After failing to win a championship with Cleveland, James left in 2010 to sign as a free agent with Miami. This move was announced in an ESPN special titled The Decision, and is one of the most controversial free agent decisions in sports history.
James won his first two NBA championships while playing for the Heat in 2012 and 2013; in both of these years, he also earned league MVP and Finals MVP. After his fourth season with the Heat in 2014, James opted out of his contract to re-sign with the Cavaliers. In 2016, he led the Cavaliers to victory over the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals by coming back from a 3–1 deficit, delivering the franchise's first championship and ending Cleveland's 52-year professional sports title drought. In 2018, James opted out of his contract with the Cavaliers to sign with the Lakers, where he won the 2020 championship and was awarded his fourth Finals MVP.
Off the court, James has accumulated additional wealth and fame from numerous endorsement contracts. He has been featured in books, documentaries (including winning a Sports Emmy Award for a documentary as an executive producer), and television commercials, and has hosted the ESPY Awards (including winning 19 ESPY Awards in his own right) and Saturday Night Live. In 2015, he appeared in the film Trainwreck. James is also a part-owner of Liverpool F.C. since 2011, with the club winning the 2018–2019 UEFA Champions League and 2019–2020 Premier League.
Having become more involved in philanthropic and activist pursuits later in his career, James's charitable organization, the LeBron James Family Foundation, helped open a school, housing complex, and community center and retail plaza in his hometown of Akron.
LeBron James Intro articles: 33
James was born on December 30, 1984, in Akron, Ohio, to Gloria Marie James, who was 16 at the time of his birth.:22 His father, Anthony McClelland, has an extensive criminal record and was not involved in his life. When James was growing up, life was often a struggle for the family, as they moved from apartment to apartment in the seedier neighborhoods of Akron while Gloria struggled to find steady work. Realizing that her son would be better off in a more stable family environment, Gloria allowed him to move in with the family of Frank Walker, a local youth football coach who introduced James to basketball when he was nine years old.:23
James began playing organized basketball in the fifth grade. He later played Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball for the Northeast Ohio Shooting Stars. The team enjoyed success on a local and national level, led by James and his friends Sian Cotton, Dru Joyce III, and Willie McGee.:24 The group dubbed themselves the "Fab Four" and promised each other that they would attend high school together.:27 In a move that stirred local controversy, they chose to attend St. Vincent–St. Mary High School, a private Catholic school with predominantly white students.
LeBron James Early life articles: 4
High school career
As a freshman, James averaged 21 points and 6 rebounds per game for the St. Vincent–St. Mary varsity basketball team. The Fighting Irish went 27–0 en route to the Division III state title, making them the only boys high school team in Ohio to finish the season undefeated. As a sophomore, James averaged 25.2 points and 7.2 rebounds with 5.8 assists and 3.8 steals per game. For some home games during the season, St. Vincent–St. Mary played at the University of Akron's 5,492-seat Rhodes Arena to satisfy ticket demand from alumni, fans, as well as college and NBA scouts who wanted to see James play. The Fighting Irish finished the season 26–1 and repeated as state champions. For his outstanding play, James was named Ohio Mr. Basketball and selected to the USA Today All-USA First Team, becoming the first sophomore to do either.
Before the start of his junior year, James was featured in Slam, an American basketball magazine, and writer Ryan Jones lauded him as possibly "the best high school basketball player in America right now". During the season, James also appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, becoming the first high school basketball underclassman to do so.:104 With averages of 29 points, 8.3 rebounds, 5.7 assists, and 3.3 steals per game, he was again named Ohio Mr. Basketball and selected to the USA Today All-USA First Team, and became the first junior to be named male basketball Gatorade National Player of the Year.:117 St. Vincent–St. Mary finished the year with a 23–4 record, ending their season with a loss in the Division II championship game.:114 Following the loss, James unsuccessfully petitioned for a change to the NBA's draft eligibility rules in an attempt to enter the 2002 NBA draft. During this time, he used marijuana, which he said was to help cope with the stress that resulted from the constant media attention he was receiving.
Throughout his senior year, James and the Fighting Irish traveled around the country to play a number of nationally ranked teams, including a game on December 12, 2002 against Oak Hill Academy that was nationally televised on ESPN2.:142 Time Warner Cable, looking to capitalize on James's popularity, offered St. Vincent–St. Mary's games to subscribers on a pay-per-view basis throughout the season.:143 For the year, James averaged 31.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 3.4 steals per game, was named Ohio Mr. Basketball and selected to the USA Today All-USA First Team for an unprecedented third consecutive year,:178 and was named Gatorade National Player of the Year for the second consecutive year. He participated in three year-end high school basketball all-star games—the EA Sports Roundball Classic, the Jordan Capital Classic, and the McDonald's All-American Game—losing his National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) eligibility and making it official that he would enter the 2003 NBA draft.
Also during his senior year, James was the centerpiece of several controversies. For his 18th birthday, he skirted state amateur bylaws by accepting a Hummer H2 as a gift from his mother, who had secured a loan for the vehicle by utilizing James's future earning power as an NBA superstar. This prompted an investigation by the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) because its guidelines stated that no amateur may accept any gift valued over $100 as a reward for athletic performance. James was cleared of any wrongdoing because he had accepted the luxury vehicle from a family member and not from an agent or any outside source. Later in the season, James accepted two throwback jerseys worth $845 from an urban clothing store in exchange for posing for pictures, officially violating OHSAA rules and resulting in him being stripped of his high school sports eligibility. James appealed the ruling and his penalty was eventually dropped to a two-game suspension, allowing him to play the remainder of the year. The Irish were also forced to forfeit one of their wins, their only official loss that season. In his first game back after the suspension, James scored a career-high 52 points. St. Vincent–St. Mary went on to win the Division II championship, marking their third division title in four years.
As an underclassman, James played wide receiver for St. Vincent–St. Mary's football team.:51 He was recruited by some Division I programs, including Notre Dame. At the conclusion of his sophomore year, he was named first team all-state, and as a junior, he helped lead the Fighting Irish to the state semifinals. He did not play during his senior year because of a wrist injury that he sustained in an AAU basketball game. Some sports analysts, football critics, high school coaches, former and current players have speculated that James could have played in the National Football League.[a]
LeBron James High school career articles: 29
Cleveland Cavaliers (2003–2010)
2003–2004: Rookie season
James was selected by his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, as the first overall pick of the 2003 NBA draft. In his first regular season game, he scored 25 points against the Sacramento Kings, setting an NBA record for most points scored by a prep-to-pro player in his debut performance. At the conclusion of the season, he became the first Cavalier to receive the NBA Rookie of the Year Award, and with final averages of 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game, he also became just the third player in league history to average at least 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game as a rookie. Cleveland ultimately finished the season 35–47, failing to make the playoffs despite an 18-game improvement over the previous year.
2004–2008: Rise to superstardom
James earned his first NBA All-Star Game selection in 2004–05, contributing 13 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists in a winning effort for the Eastern Conference. Around the league, teams took note of his rapid development, with Denver Nuggets coach George Karl telling Sports Illustrated, "It's weird talking about a 20-year-old kid being a great player, but he is a great player ... He's the exception to almost every rule." On March 20, James scored 56 points against the Toronto Raptors, setting Cleveland's new single-game points record. With final averages of 27.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.2 assists, and 2.2 steals per game, he was named to his first All-NBA Team. Despite a 30–20 record to start the year, the Cavaliers again failed to make the playoffs, finishing the season 42–40.
At the 2006 All-Star Game, James led the East to victory with 29 points and was named the NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player. Behind final season averages of 31.4 points, 7 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game, he also finished second in overall NBA Most Valuable Player Award voting to Steve Nash. Under James's leadership, the Cavaliers qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 1998. In his postseason debut, James recorded a triple-double in a winning effort versus the Washington Wizards. In Game 3 of the series, he made the first game-winning shot of his career, making another in Game 5. Cleveland would go on to defeat the Wizards before being ousted by the Detroit Pistons in the second round.
In 2006–07, James's averages declined to 27.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 6 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. Some analysts attributed the fall to a regression in his passing skills and shot selection, which stemmed from a lack of effort and focus. The Cavaliers finished the season with 50 wins for the second consecutive year and entered the playoffs as the East's second seed. In Game 5 of the NBA Conference Finals, James notched 48 points with 9 rebounds and 7 assists, scoring 29 of Cleveland's last 30 points, including the game-winning layup with two seconds left in a double-overtime game against the Pistons. After the game, play-by-play announcer Marv Albert called the performance "one of the greatest moments in postseason history" and color commentator Steve Kerr described it as "Jordan-esque". In 2012, ESPN ranked the performance the fourth greatest in modern NBA playoff history. The Cavaliers went on to win Game 6 and claim their first-ever Eastern Conference championship, earning them a matchup with the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. During the championship round, James struggled, averaging 22 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 6.8 assists per game on just 35.6 percent shooting, and Cleveland was eliminated in a sweep.
In February of the 2007–08 season, James was named All-Star Game MVP for the second time behind a 27-point, 8-rebound, and 9-assist performance. On March 21, he moved past Brad Daugherty as the Cavaliers' all-time leading scorer in a game against the Raptors, doing so in over 100 less games than Daugherty. His 30 points per game were also the highest in the league, marking his first scoring title. Despite his individual accomplishments, Cleveland's record fell from the year before to 45–37. Seeded fourth in the East entering the playoffs, the Cavaliers defeated the Wizards in the first round for the third consecutive season before being eliminated in seven games by the eventual-champion Boston Celtics in the next round. During the decisive seventh game in Boston, James scored 45 points and Paul Pierce scored 41 in a game the Associated Press described as a "shootout".
2008–2010: MVP seasons
At the conclusion of the 2008–09 season, James finished second in NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award voting and made his first NBA All-Defensive Team, posting 23 chase-down blocks and a career-high 93 total blocks. He also became only the fourth postmerger player to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks in a single season. Behind his play and the acquisition of All-Star guard Mo Williams, Cleveland went a franchise record 66–16 and fell just one game short of matching the best home record in league history. With final averages of 28.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game, James became the first Cavalier to win the MVP Award. Reflecting on James's performance for ESPN, John Hollinger later wrote, "He's having what is arguably the greatest individual season in history, and it's time we gave him his due for it."
In the playoffs, Cleveland swept the Pistons and the Atlanta Hawks to earn a matchup with the Orlando Magic in the Conference Finals. In Game 1 of the series, James scored 49 points on 66 percent shooting in a losing effort for the Cavaliers. In Game 2, he hit a game-winner to tie the series at 1–1. Cleveland would lose the series in six games, and following the loss in Game 6, James immediately left the floor without shaking hands with his opponents, which was an act that many media members viewed as unsportsmanlike. For the series, he averaged 38.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 8 assists per game, finishing the postseason with a career playoff-high 35.3 points per game.
In February of the 2009–10 season, James was forced into a temporary point guard role following a series of injuries to players in the Cavaliers' backcourt. Behind his leadership, Cleveland lost no momentum, finishing the year with the best record in the league for the second consecutive season. Due in part to his increased minutes as the Cavaliers' primary ball handler, James increased his statistical production, averaging 29.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 8.6 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1 block per game on 50 percent shooting en route to another MVP Award. To open the playoffs, Cleveland advanced past the Bulls to earn a matchup with the Celtics in the second round. James was heavily criticized for not playing well in Game 5 of the series, shooting only 20 percent on 14 shots and scoring 15 points. The team suffered its worst loss in franchise history, and at the conclusion of the game, James walked off the court to a smattering of boos from Cleveland's home crowd. The Cavaliers were officially eliminated from the postseason in Game 6, with James posting 27 points, 19 rebounds, 10 assists, and nine turnovers in the losing effort.
Miami Heat (2010–2014)
James became an unrestricted free agent at 12:01 am EDT on July 1, 2010. During this time, he was contacted by several teams, including the Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, New Jersey Nets, and Cavaliers. On July 8, he announced on a live ESPN special titled The Decision that he would sign with the Heat. The telecast was broadcast from the Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich, Connecticut and raised $2.5 million for the charity. An additional $3.5 million was raised from advertising revenue, which was donated to other charities. The day before the special, fellow free agents Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade also announced that they would sign with Miami; reports later arose that back in 2006 the trio had discussed among themselves their upcoming 2010 free agencies. James decided to join with Bosh and Wade in part so that he could shoulder less of the offensive load; he thought that his improved teammates would give him a better chance of winning an NBA championship than had he stayed in Cleveland. Heat president Pat Riley played a major role in selling James on the idea of playing with Bosh and Wade. James would be relieved of the burden of scoring, and he thought he could be the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple-double in a season.
Upon leaving the Cavaliers, James drew intense criticism from sports analysts, executives, fans, and current and former players. The Decision itself was also scrutinized and viewed as unnecessary. Many thought that the prolonged wait for James's choice was unprofessional as not even the teams courting him were aware of his decision until moments before the show. Upon learning that James would not be returning to Cleveland, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert published an open letter to fans in which he aggressively denounced James's actions. Some angry fans of the team recorded videos of themselves burning his jersey. Former NBA players, including Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, were also critical of James, condemning him for joining with Bosh and Wade in Miami and not trying to win a championship as "the man". James drew further criticism in a September interview with CNN when he claimed that race might have been a factor in the fallout from The Decision. As a result of his actions during the 2010 free agency period, he quickly gained a reputation as one of America's most disliked athletes, which was a radical change from prior years. The phrase "taking my talents to South Beach" became a punch line for critics. In retrospect, James has expressed some regret over his handling of The Decision.
2010–2011: Year of media and fan scrutiny
James officially signed with the Heat on July 10, 2010 through a sign-and-trade deal which sent two second and two first round draft picks to the Cavaliers and gave the team the option to swap first round picks with the Heat in 2012. As part of the first player-created NBA superteam he became only the third reigning MVP to change teams and the first since Moses Malone in 1982. That evening, the Heat threw a welcome party for their new "big three" at the American Airlines Arena, an event that took on a rock concert atmosphere. During the gathering, James predicted a dynasty for the Heat and alluded to multiple championships. Outside of Miami, the spectacle was not well-received, furthering the negative public perception of James.
Throughout the 2010–11 season, the media and opposing fanbases treated James and the Heat as villains. To begin the year, they struggled to adjust to these new circumstances, going only 9–8 after 17 games. James later admitted that the constant negativity surrounding the team made him play with an angrier demeanor than in years past. On December 2, James faced the Cavaliers in Cleveland for the first time since departing as a free agent. He scored 38 points and led Miami to a win while being booed every time he touched the ball. The Heat eventually turned their season around and finished as the East's second seed, with James averaging 26.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 7 assists per game on 51 percent shooting.
In the conference semifinals, James and his teammates found themselves matched up with the Celtics for the second consecutive year. In Game 5, he scored Miami's last ten points to help seal a series-clinching win. After the final buzzer, he famously knelt on the court in an emotional moment, later telling reporters that it was an extremely personal victory for him and the team. The Heat eventually advanced to the Finals, where they were defeated by the Dallas Mavericks in six games. James received the brunt of the criticism for the loss, averaging only three points in fourth quarters in the series. His Finals scoring average of 17.8 points per game signified an 8.9-point drop from the regular season, the largest point drop-off in league history.
2011–2013: Back-to-back championships
James was humbled by the Heat's loss to the Mavericks, and the experience inspired him to leave behind the villain role that he had been embracing, which helped him regain a sense of joy on the court. He also decided that his post game needed improvement, so he worked with Hakeem Olajuwon during the off-season. Behind James's significantly-expanded skillset, Miami began the year with a franchise-best 18–6 record. He was eventually named MVP for the third time, finishing with averages of 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists, and 1.9 steals per game on 53 percent shooting.
In the second round of the playoffs, Miami temporarily lost Chris Bosh to an abdominal injury and found themselves trailing the Indiana Pacers 2–1. James responded with a 40-point, 18-rebound, and 9-assist outing in Game 4 to help even the series. To compensate for Bosh's absence, the Heat embraced a small-ball lineup with James at power forward, which they retained even after Bosh's return in the Conference Finals against the Celtics. Facing elimination in Game 6, James recorded 45 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Heat to victory in what The New York Times called a "career-defining performance". Miami won Game 7 to advance to the Finals, earning them a matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder and James's budding rival, Kevin Durant. Late in Game 4 of the series, James hit a three-pointer to give the Heat a lead, helping them win the game despite missing time with leg cramps. In Game 5, he registered a triple-double as Miami defeated Oklahoma City for their second-ever championship and James's first championship. James was unanimously voted the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player with averages of 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 7.4 assists per game. His full postseason run, in which he averaged 30.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game, was later ranked the second best in modern NBA history by ESPN.
In February of the 2012–13 season, James averaged 29.7 points and 7.8 assists per game while setting multiple shooting efficiency records. That same month, the Heat also began a 27-game winning streak, which is the third longest in NBA history. Based on these accomplishments, James's performance was described as a "month for the ages" by Sports Illustrated. Miami eventually finished the year with a franchise and league best 66–16 record, and James was named MVP for the fourth time, falling just one vote shy of becoming the first player in NBA history to win the award unanimously. His final season averages were 26.8 points, 8 rebounds, 7.3 assists, and 1.7 steals per game on 56.5 percent shooting.
In Game 1 of the Conference Finals, James scored a buzzer-beating layup to give Miami a one-point victory against the Pacers. Throughout the series, his supporting cast struggled significantly, and his added scoring load prompted him to compare his responsibilities to those of his "Cleveland days". Despite these struggles, the Heat advanced to the Finals for a meeting with the Spurs, signifying a rematch for James from his first Finals six years earlier. At the beginning of the series, he was criticized for his lack of aggressiveness and poor shot selection as Miami fell behind 2–3. In Game 6, he recorded his second triple-double of the series, including 16 fourth quarter points, to lead the Heat to a comeback victory. In Game 7, he tied the Finals record for most points scored in a Game 7 victory, leading Miami over San Antonio with 37 points. He was named Finals MVP for the second straight season, averaging 25.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2.3 steals per game for the championship round.
2013–2014: Final season in Miami
On March 3 of the 2013–14 season, James scored a career-high and franchise-record 61 points in a game against the Charlotte Bobcats. Throughout the year, he was one of the few staples for a Heat roster that used 20 different starting lineups due to injuries, finishing with averages of 27.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 6.4 assists per game on 56.7 percent shooting. In the second round of the playoffs, he tied a career postseason-high by scoring 49 points in Game 4 against the Brooklyn Nets. In the next round, Miami defeated the Pacers to earn their fourth consecutive Finals berth, becoming one of only four teams in NBA history to do so. In Game 1 of the Finals, James missed most of the fourth quarter because of leg cramps, helping the Spurs take an early series lead. In Game 2, he led the Heat to a series-tying victory with 35 points on a 64 percent shooting rate. San Antonio eventually eliminated the Heat in five games, ending Miami's quest for a three-peat. For the Finals, James averaged 28.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.0 steals per game.
Return to the Cavaliers (2014–2018)
On June 25, 2014, James opted out of his contract with the Heat, and on July 1, he officially became an unrestricted free agent. On July 11, he revealed via a first-person essay in Sports Illustrated that he intended to return to the Cavaliers. In contrast to The Decision, his announcement to return to Cleveland was well received. On July 12, he officially signed with the team, who had compiled a league-worst 97–215 record in the four seasons following his departure. A month after James's signing, the Cavaliers acquired Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves, forming a new star trio along with Kyrie Irving.
2014–2016: Ending Cleveland's championship drought
In January of the 2014–15 season, James missed two weeks due to left knee and lower back strains, which represented the longest stretch of missed games in his career. In total, he played a career-low 69 games and his final averages were 25.3 points, 6 rebounds, and 7.4 assists per game. In the second round of the playoffs, he hit a baseline jumper at the buzzer to give Cleveland a 2–2 series tie with the Bulls. In the Conference Finals, the Cavaliers defeated the Hawks to advance to the Finals, making James the first player since the 1960s to play in five consecutive Finals. For most of the Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Irving and Love were sidelined due to injury, giving James more offensive responsibilities. Behind his leadership, the Cavaliers opened the series with a 2–1 lead before being eliminated in six games. Despite the loss, he received serious consideration for the Finals MVP Award, averaging 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game for the championship round.
During the 2015–16 season, James was criticized for his role in several off-court controversies, including the midseason firing of Cavaliers' coach David Blatt. Despite these distractions, Cleveland finished the year with 57 wins and the best record in the East. James's final averages were 25.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 6.8 assists per game on 52 percent shooting. In the playoffs, the Cavaliers advanced comfortably to the Finals, losing only two games en route to a rematch with the Warriors, who were coming off a record-setting 73-win season. To begin the series, Cleveland fell behind 3–1, including two blowout losses. James responded by registering back-to-back 41 point games in Games 5 and 6, leading the Cavaliers to two consecutive wins to stave off elimination. In Game 7, he posted a triple-double and made a number of key plays, including The Block on Andre Iguodala, as Cleveland emerged victorious, winning the city's first professional sports title in 52 years and becoming the first team in NBA history to come back from a 3–1 series deficit in the Finals. James became just the third player to record a triple-double in an NBA Finals Game 7, and behind series averages of 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 2.3 blocks, and 2.6 steals per game, he also became the first player in league history to lead both teams in all five statistical categories for a playoff round, culminating in a unanimous Finals MVP selection.
2016–2018: End of second stint in Cleveland
The 2016–17 season was marred by injuries and unexpected losses for the Cavaliers; James later described it as one of the "strangest" years of his career. Following a January defeat to the New Orleans Pelicans, he publicly criticized Cleveland's front office for constructing a team that he felt was too "top heavy", for which he received countercriticism. The Cavaliers finished the season as the East's second seed, with James averaging 26.4 points and career highs in rebounds (8.6), assists (8.7), and turnovers (4.1) per game. In Game 3 of the first round of the postseason, he registered 41 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists against the Pacers, leading Cleveland to a comeback victory after trailing by 25 points at halftime, representing the largest halftime deficit overcome in NBA playoff history. In Game 5 of the Conference Finals against the Celtics, James scored 35 points and surpassed Michael Jordan as the league's all-time postseason scoring leader. The Cavaliers won the game and the series, advancing to their third consecutive Finals against the Warriors, who had signed James's rival Kevin Durant during the off-season. Behind averages of 33.6 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists per game, James became the first player to average a triple-double in the Finals, but Cleveland was defeated in five games.
Prior to the start of the 2017–18 season, the Cavaliers overhauled their roster by trading Kyrie Irving to the Celtics, who requested a trade in part because he no longer wanted to play with James. After a slow start to the year, Cleveland rebounded by winning 18 of 19 games in December. Their turnaround began with a victory over the Wizards where James scored 57 points, which represented the second-highest point total of his career and tied a franchise record. In January, the Cavaliers had a losing record, and James was criticized for his lackluster effort. Following another round of trades in February, Cleveland returned to form and James reached a number of historical milestones; for example, on March 30, he set an NBA record with 867 straight games scoring in double digits. James eventually finished the season with averages of 27.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 9.2 assists and 4.2 turnovers per game. In the playoffs, he guided the Cavaliers to another Finals rematch with the Warriors. Along the way, he had some of the most memorable moments of his career, including a game-winning shot against the Pacers and another against the Raptors. In the first game of the Finals, James scored a playoff career-high 51 points, but Cleveland was defeated in overtime. Following the defeat, James injured his hand after punching a wall in the locker room, which hindered his effectiveness for the remainder of the series. The Cavaliers lost the series in four games, with James averaging 34 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 10 assists per game for the Finals.
Los Angeles Lakers (2018–present)
2018–2019: Injury and playoff miss
On June 29, 2018, James opted out of his contract with the Cavaliers and became an unrestricted free agent. On July 1, his management company, Klutch Sports, announced that he would sign with the Los Angeles Lakers; the deal was officially completed on July 9. In an interview with Sports Illustrated, James's agent, Rich Paul, explained, "In 2010, when he went to Miami, it was about championships. In 2014, when he went back to Cleveland, it was about delivering on a promise. In 2018, it was just about doing what he wants to do." Reaction to the move was more positive than his original departure from the Cavaliers, albeit still mixed, as some onlookers felt that Los Angeles was not his optimal destination.
The Lakers expected James to make them championship contenders again after having missed the playoffs since 2014 and not appearing in the Finals since 2010. Following his signing, the team rounded out their roster with a controversial collection of playmakers and veterans. As a result, to begin the 2018–19 season, the team struggled to find effective lineups and recorded only two wins through their first seven games. In November, they began a turnaround, which included two of James's strongest performances of the season. On November 14, he registered 44 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists in a victory against the Portland Trail Blazers, and four days later he scored a season-high 51 points in a win over the Heat. After blowing out the Warriors on Christmas Day, Los Angeles improved their record to 20–14, but James suffered a groin injury, the first major injury of his career. He ultimately missed a career-high 17 consecutive games, and the Lakers fell out of playoff contention without him. The team was unable to recover and failed to qualify for the postseason, marking the first time that James missed the playoffs since 2005 and the first time he failed to reach the Finals since 2010. On March 7, the Lakers announced that James would begin a minutes restriction, and on March 30, he was officially ruled out for the remainder of the season. James's final averages were 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 8.3 assists per game, and despite his inconsistent campaign, he was ultimately named to the All-NBA Third Team, marking the first time in 12 years that he did not make the All-NBA First Team.
2019–2020: Fourth NBA championship
During the offseason, the Lakers hired Frank Vogel as their new head coach, and traded the majority of their young core to the Pelicans for superstar big man Anthony Davis. James immediately embraced Los Angeles's much-improved roster by transforming his playing style, moving to full-time point guard and competing with a more consistent defensive effort. Behind James's leadership, the Lakers opened the 2019–20 season with a 17–2 record, matching the best start in franchise history. On January 25, James passed team legend Kobe Bryant for third on the all-time regular season scoring list, the day before Bryant's death in a helicopter crash. In early March, James led Los Angeles to a victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in a matchup of conference leaders, followed by a streak-breaking win against the Clippers, before the season was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Play resumed in July and concluded in August within the confined NBA Bubble, and James ended the regular season as the league leader in assists for the first time in his career, averaging 10.2 assists per game.
The Lakers entered the playoffs as the number one seed in the West and advanced to the Finals convincingly, with only three total losses along the way. In Game 5 of the Conference Finals against the Nuggets, James helped clinch the conference championship by scoring a game-high 38 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter. In the Finals, James and his teammates found themselves matched up with his former team, the Heat, and quickly took control of the series with a 2–0 lead. In Game 5, James turned in his best statistical performance of the Finals, registering 40 points, 13 rebounds, and 7 assists in a memorable duel with Miami's star wing, Jimmy Butler, but Los Angeles was ultimately defeated in a three-point game. The Lakers finally eliminated the Heat in Game 6, which earned James his fourth NBA championship and fourth Finals MVP Award. At 35 years and 287 days old, he became the second-oldest player in league history to win the award, and the only player in NBA history to win the award with three different franchises. James and teammate Danny Green also became the third and fourth players in league history to win at least one championship with three different teams each.
On December 31, 2020, James became the first player in NBA history to score 10 points or more in 1,000 consecutive games in a 121-107 win against San Antonio Spurs. Two months later, he became the third player in NBA history with 35,000 career points, with only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone on the list.
LeBron James Professional career articles: 159
National team career
James made his debut for the United States national team at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. He spent the Games mostly on the bench, averaging 14.6 minutes per game with 5.8 points and 2.6 rebounds per game in eight games. Team USA finished the competition with a bronze medal, becoming the first U.S. basketball team to return home without a gold medal since adding active NBA players to their lineup. James felt his limited playing time was a "lowlight" and believed he was not given "a fair opportunity to play". His attitude during the Olympics was described as "disrespectful" and "distasteful" by columnists Adrian Wojnarowski and Peter Vecsey, respectively.
At the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan, James took on a greater role for Team USA, averaging 13.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game as co-captain. The team finished the tournament with an 8–1 record, winning another bronze medal. James's behavior was again questioned, this time by teammate Bruce Bowen, who confronted James during tryouts regarding his treatment of staff members.
Before naming James to the 2008 Olympic team, Team USA managing director Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski gave James an ultimatum to improve his attitude, and he heeded their advice. At the FIBA Americas Championship 2007, he averaged 18.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game, including a 31-point performance against Argentina in the championship game, the most ever by an American in an Olympic qualifier. Team USA went 10–0, winning the gold medal and qualifying for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. James credited the team's attitude and experience for their improvement, saying: "I don't think we understood what it meant to put on a USA uniform and all the people that we were representing in 2004. We definitely know that now." At the Olympics, Team USA went unbeaten, winning their first gold medal since 2000. In the final game, James turned in 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists against Spain.
James did not play at the 2010 FIBA World Championship but rejoined Team USA for the 2012 Olympics in London, England. He became the leader of the team, with Bryant, who would soon be 34, stepping back. James facilitated the offense from the post and perimeter, called the defensive sets, and provided scoring when needed. During a game against Australia, he recorded the first triple-double in U.S. Olympic basketball history with 11 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists.[b] Team USA went on to win their second straight gold medal, again defeating Spain in the final game. James contributed 19 points in the win, becoming the all-time leading scorer in U.S. men's basketball history. He also joined Michael Jordan as the only players to win an NBA MVP award, NBA championship, NBA Finals MVP, and Olympic gold medal in the same year. Afterwards, Krzyzewski said James "is the best player, he is the best leader and he is as smart as anybody playing the game right now."
LeBron James National team career articles: 19
Standing 6 feet 9 inches (2.06 m) tall and weighing 250 pounds (113 kg), James has played the majority of his career at the small forward and power forward positions, but has also been deployed at the other positions when necessary. His playing style, which is athletic and versatile, has drawn comparisons to Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan. As of September 2020, James's career averages are 27.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.6 steals, and 0.8 blocks per game. Since 2011, he has been ranked the best player in the NBA by ESPN and Sports Illustrated.
As an 18-year-old rookie, James led the Cavaliers in scoring. He holds numerous "youngest to" distinctions, including being the youngest player to score 30,000 career points. During his first stint in Cleveland, he was primarily used as an on-ball point forward, and although his shooting tendencies were perimeter-oriented, he established himself as one of the best slashers and finishers in basketball. His combination of speed, quickness, and size often created matchup problems for opposing teams because he was capable of blowing by larger defenders and overpowering smaller ones. These qualities became more apparent in transition, where he developed a reputation for grabbing defensive rebounds and then beating the defense downcourt for highlight reel baskets. Around this time, James was frequently criticized for not having a reliable jump shot or post game. Teams would try to exploit these weaknesses by giving him space in the half court and forcing him to settle for three-pointers and long two-pointers, a strategy famously used by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich in the 2007 Finals, where James converted on only 36 percent of his field goals in four games.
In Miami, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra changed James's role to a more unconventional one. James spent more time in the post and improved his shot selection and accuracy on jump shots. He also learned how to work as an off-ball cutter in the Heat's "pass-happy" offense. Behind these improvements, James's overall scoring efficiency rose to historically great levels. During this time, ESPN's Tom Haberstroh called James's free-throw shooting his biggest weakness, describing it as "average". Upon returning to the Cavaliers, James began to experience subtle age-related declines in productivity, posting his lowest scoring averages since his rookie season in 2015 and 2016. His shooting also temporarily regressed, and he briefly ranked as the NBA's worst high-volume shooter from outside the paint. Despite these changes, he remained an elite offensive player who beat defenses with body control, strength, and varying attacking speeds.
For most of his career, James has controlled the offense as the primary ball handler on his team. His playmaking ability is generally considered one of his premier skills, and some analysts rank him among the greatest passers in NBA history. By exploiting his size, vision, and the attention he garners from opposing defenses, James creates easy points for his teammates with accurate assists. He executes unconventional passes, including after leaving his feet and through defensive traffic. His uncanny tendency to find the open man has helped force NBA teams to incorporate some elements of zone into their schemes to better cover the weak side of the court and prevent James from passing to open shooters. Early in James's career, he was criticized for overpassing in pressure situations; specifically, for passing instead of shooting in the waning seconds of close games. However, as his career progressed, James's clutch performance was viewed more favorably.
At the beginning of James's NBA career, he was considered a poor defensive player, but he improved steadily through the years. In 2009, he became proficient at the chase-down block, which involves coming in from behind the opposition in transition to block their shot. In Miami, he developed into a more versatile defensive player, and the Heat relied on him to guard all five positions. Along with Shane Battier and Dwyane Wade, Miami used James in an ultra-aggressive defensive scheme, with James cheating off the ball to help out inside or get into rebounding position. Beginning in 2014, some analysts reported a regression in his defensive impact, stemming from a lack of effort and expected age-related declines. During his second stint in Cleveland, his defense progressively declined. After missed drives on offense, he often dawdled back on defense while complaining to the referees; he provided less help off the ball, and was less aggressive in switching. James himself admitted to taking plays off at times, referring to this approach as "chill mode". He eventually developed a reputation for raising his defensive level in the playoffs, which some analysts referred to as "Playoff LeBron".
LeBron James Player profile articles: 12
James left high school as one of the most hyped prospects in NBA history.[c] Upon entering the NBA, he made an immediate impact and was voted Rookie of the Year in his debut season. As of June 2020, he has been named to 16 All-NBA Teams, including 13 times to the first-team, which are both NBA records. His four MVP awards are matched only by Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, and Bill Russell; James and Russell are the only players to win four MVP awards in a five-year span. James has also won four Finals MVP Awards, which is the second-most all-time, and earned All-Defensive honors every season from 2009 to 2014. While James has never won the Defensive Player of the Year Award, he has finished second in the voting twice and lists it as one of his main goals. His teams have appeared in the Finals ten times and won four championships. His ten Finals appearances are tied for third all-time.[d] Some analysts have criticized him for not having a better Finals record, while others have countered that James usually performed well but his team was defeated by superior competition.
On the basis of his career longevity and on-court performances, sports publications have consistently included James in rankings of the best basketball players in history,[e] and in December 2019, he was named The Associated Press Male Athlete of the Decade for the 2010s. In addition to praising James's on-court accomplishments, analysts have also noted James's influence on player empowerment throughout the NBA, which stemmed from his willingness to change teams during free agency. For example, Ben Golliver of The Washington Post opined that James's move to the Heat in 2010 "defined a decade of player movement", and that he "fundamentally flipped the power balance between stars and their organizations." James's fellow players have also remarked on his influence, such as Warriors rival Draymond Green, who reflected, "[Players have] taken control of our destiny. And I think a lot of people hate that ... I think the doors that he's opened for athletes and especially basketball players is his biggest accomplishment."
James is also discussed within the context of being the greatest basketball player of all-time, which has resulted in frequent comparisons to Michael Jordan. In a 2016 interview with Sports Illustrated, James acknowledged that his motivation was surpassing Jordan as the greatest. In February 2018, The Ringer spent an entire week devoted to both players, with Bill Simmons ultimately concluding that Jordan was still ahead. In polls, James has ranked second behind Jordan.