LeBron James – A Leading Light
Born in 1984 and raised in Ohio, LeBron James received early acclaim for his skills on the basketball court and was generally regarded as the best high school basketballer of his generation. His athleticism, vision and size ensured that he became one of the NBA’s leading players with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He also led the Miami Heat to consecutive titles in 2012 – 2013 and then returned to the Cavs to help them go all the way to the NBA Finals in both 2015 and 2016. From the time LeBron stepped into the league, he was quickly crowned the king of the NBA, a title he rightly deserves.
High School Basketball Star
James joined the St. Vincent-St. Mary High School basketball team in 1999. In his first year there, he scored an average of 18 points per game and helped them clinch the Division III title, scoring 25 points in the penultimate game. In his sophomore year, he was selected to join the All-USA team. His school also retained the Division III title.
His senior year was also impressive, with James averaging 31.6 points per game on the way to winning the state title for the third time.
Career with Cleveland Cavaliers
After a great high school record, it was hardly surprising that he was the first pick of the 2003 NBA draft, with the young, powerful forward signing for the Cleveland Cavaliers. In the summer of 2004, James debuted at the Olympic Games with the US National Basketball Team, winning the bronze medal.
He made it into the history books in 2005, becoming the youngest player to notch more than 50 points in a game. He also made it to the NBA All-Star game the next year, doing so for several years afterwards as well. In the 2006 game, he was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP).
Career with Miami Heat
In the summer of 2008, alongside the likes of Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade and Jason Kidd, James participated in the Olympic Games in Beijing. The US team won the gold medal, beating Spain in the final.
In 2010, James became a free agent, sparking massive media speculation about his future and where he would play next. Despite the Cavaliers wanting to renew his contract, James surprised everyone by announcing that he would play for the Miami Heat during the 2010 – 2011 season. In his first year with the Miami Heat, he was the second highest scorer in the league, with an average of 26.7 points per game.
His second season with the Miami Heat was a highly successful one as well; his team beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in that year’s NBA Finals, ensuring that the superstar finally got a title under his name. In 2012, he got his third opportunity to play at the Olympic Games, which were held in London, England. The US team won the competition again, earning James his second consecutive gold medal.
In the 2012 – 2013 season, LeBron once again made history: At age 28, he became the youngest player in NBA history to score 20,000 points in total, breaking the previous record set by Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers – who had accomplished the feat at the age of 29 – and is only the 38th player to have achieved this distinction.
The Heat and LeBron finished the 2012 – 2013 season on a high, beating the San Antonio Spurs in a seven-game series to clinch their second consecutive championship.
Return to Cavaliers
July 2014 saw James opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat, and after considering various offers, he decided to return to Cleveland. His first season back with the Cavs, in 2014 – 2015, saw him miss a big chunk of the regular season games due to knee and back problems. However, on his return to fitness, he continued to be a dominant force, with an average of 25.3 points per game and an assist average of 7.4. He led his team to that year’s NBA finals, in the process making history again as the first player to achieve the feat for five consecutive seasons. The next year, his outstanding all-round play helped the Cavaliers to avoid the pitfalls of a mid-season change in coach.
Rivalry with Steph Curry
In the run up to this year’s NBA Finals and impending showdown with Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors, he was asked in an interview whether the assertion that they are now rivals is accurate. James went to great lengths to deny it. While the two are the leading lights of the game today, he may have a point: the two play different positions, have strikingly different body types, have different styles of play and were drafted into the NBA six years apart.
The reality is that James was a child prodigy who has played in seven finals in his career, after he took the NBA by storm as a rookie. On the other hand, Curry is a lightly recruited player who has bloomed later in his career, making only his second appearance in the finals. With all this said and done, who will lead the way in this year’s NBA Final?