With the way sports information flows through social media these days, it can be a monumental task to live up to the hype. Fans know about top hoops prospects before they’re even able to get a drivers license. LeBron James was one of those players, but he’s more than lived up to that hype.
James, who is potentially on the doorstep of leading a 3rd franchise to an NBA championship, is on a very short list in the debate over the greatest NBA player ever. Michael Jordan continues to hold that title for most, but James is making that conversation interesting with the accolades and accomplishments he's piling up. He is a 3-time NBA champion, finals MVP and 4-time league MVP.
From a Prince to a King
“King James” was a national star while still playing in high school at St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron, Ohio. He led his team to 3 state championships in 4 years. Interest in watching his games was so high that a game against Oak Hill Academy was televised nationally on ESPN2 during his senior year. Time Warner Cable offered his games to subscribers throughout the season. Lebron even petitioned the NBA after his junior season to gain eligibility to enter the 2002 draft. With the petition denied, he returned to St. Vincent-St. Mary to win a title in his senior year before entering the NBA Draft in 2003.
James scored 25 points in his first NBA game for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who drafted the hometown stars number 1 overall. He recorded the highest ever point total for a high school-to-pros player in his first game. It was a sign of things to come, as he was named rookie of the year in 2004. Just 3 years later, James led a surprising run by the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals. James was still raw at age 23, but pushed his team past the Detroit Pistons in 6 games to win their first ever Eastern Conference crown. The powerful, veteran San Antonio Spurs awaited in the Finals. They swept the Cavs in 4 games, so the ultimate prize would have to wait.
James won league MVP in both 2009 and 2010, but Cleveland was not seeing the team success he desired. In one of the most memorable sports media moments of his generation, Lebron held a made for TV event called “The Decision” in July of 2010, during which he would make his free agent destination known. James picked the Miami Heat, opting to team up with current Miami star Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who also landed there via free agency. While the decision was widely controversial, both for the style of the announcement and for leaving his hometown team, it worked. During a 4 year run in Miami, the Heat went to the Finals all 4 years and won 2 championships.
I’m Coming Home
With Wade and Bosh aging and a growing desire to still bring a title to his hometown fans, James decided to go back to the Cavaliers in 2014. His top teammates for this run would be Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. His consistent runs to the Finals continued, but a championship was elusive at first because of the presence of the Golden State Warriors. A super team in their own right, led by Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, the Warriors defeated James’ Cavs in the 2015 NBA Finals. But the following year, James got his revenge and his Cleveland ring, as the Cavs erased a 3-1 finals deficit to win in 7 games. James openly wept on the court when the final buzzer sounded. The Cavs would go the Finals the next two seasons as well, but the Warriors, who had since added Kevin Durant, were too much for the King (and for any team for that matter).
For the twilight of his career, in what feels like a last dance, James jumped to the Western Conference and became a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. The team was still in a rebuilding mode upon his arrival, and they did not make the playoffs in 2019, marking the first time in 9 seasons King James did not appear in the NBA Finals. However, the Lakers acquired Anthony Davis the following offseason, and the duo is on the precipice of a championship as of this writing, up 2-1 in the NBA finals against the Miami Heat.
Do It All
Especially late in his career, James has become known for much more than just basketball. A fierce leader in the business world, James has his fingerprints on numerous products and entities. He has a minority stake in the Liverpool Soccer Club of the English Premier League, has a stake in Blaze Pizza, Beats by Dre and Uninterrupted, and owns a production company with his business partner Maverick Carter called Spring Hill Entertainment. He also opened his I PROMISE charter school for underserved kids in Ohio, and has maintained a very high profile in speaking on social justice issues. In 2015, Lebron was the recipient of the NBA J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, given for outstanding service and dedication to the community.