As one of the world’s most exciting players in the NBA, LeBron James has taken his skills as an elite athlete and parlayed it into success in other areas of entertainment. He continues to set the gold standard in the sports world and is only getting started.
Born in Akron, Ohio, LeBron James was born to Gloria Marie James, then 16-years old and unwed to LeBron’s father Anthony McClelland. Raised alone by his single mother, the family shuttled from apartment to apartment in the lower class areas of Akron as his mom struggled to find and maintain steady work for her young son. Hoping to provide her son with a better life, Gloria allowed him to move in with the local youth football coach Frank Walker, who introduced James to the sport of basketball at the age of nine years old.
Once picking up the sport, James quickly excelled, joining the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) for the Northeast Ohio Shooting Stars and enjoyed success at local and national level, becoming a dominant force with teammates Sian Cotton, Dru Joyce III, and Willie McGee. Dubbed the ‘Fab Four’, they attended high school together and collectively decided to attend the predominantly white St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.
As a freshman at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s, James averaged 21 points and 6 rebounds per game playing with the varsity basketball team, finishing undefeated at 27-0 and winning the Division III state title. As a sophomore, interest in James traveled throughout the city area and he averaged 25.2 points and 7.2 rebounds as college and NBA scouts begin to watch his games. His team finished 26-1 and repeated as state champions. He was named Ohio’s Mr. Basketball and selected by USA Today for their All-USA First Team, making history as the first sophomore to accomplish the feat.
Before the start of his junior year, SLAM Magazine named him the best high school player in America, with Sports Illustrated featuring him on the cover, making him the first high school underclassmen ever to appear. During his junior year, James averaged 29 points, 8.3 rebounds and was named against as Ohio’s Mr. Basketball and selected to the USA Today All-USA First Team, becoming the first junior to win Gatorade National Player of the Year Award. After the season ended, James petitioned unsuccessfully to entire the NBA draft in 2002 as a junior in high school, but returned during his senior year and was featured on ESPN2 in nationally syndicated games, with St. Vincent-St. Mary’s offering the games on a pay-per-view basis throughout the remainder of the season. James averaged 31.6 points, 9.6 rebounds and was named Ohio’s Mr. Basketball and USA Today All-USA First Team for the third year in a row. He was also named as the Gatorade National Player of the Year for the second straight year and participated in three all-star games for high school students: EA Sports Roundball Classic, the Jordan Capital Classic, and the 2003 McDonald’s All-American game. This made him eligible to entire the 2003 NBA draft, entering it as one of the most hyped and sought after basketball players in the history of the sport.
Selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the first overall draft pick in the 2003 NBA draft, James made history in his debut, racking up 25 points against the Sacramento Kings and eventually becoming the league’s Rookie of the Year, averaging 20.9 points and 5.5 rebounds during the season. The Cavaliers improved upon their previous year with LeBron on their team by 18 games and narrowly missed making the playoffs. He earned his first NBA All-Star Game selection in 2004-2005 for the Eastern Conference, in a win where he contributed 13 points and 8 rebounds. He was also named to the All-NBA Team at the end of the season, with the Cavaliers finishing the season at 42-40.
At the 2006 NBA All-Star Game, James was named the Most Valuable Player, leading the East to victory with 29 points. The 2006-07 season, he averaged 27.3 points and 6.7 rebounds as the Cavaliers entered the playoffs as the second seed. In what was hailed as one of the greatest moments in sports history, James scored 48 points and 9 rebounds in Game 5 of the Conference Finals, eventually making it to the finals where they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs. In 2007-08, James was again named All-Star Game MVP and entered the playoffs before facing elimination by the Boston Celtics in the second round. At the end of the 2008-09 season, James made his first NBA All-Defensive Team, with the Cavaliers breaking records with a 66-16 season and making the playoffs, eventually losing to the Orlando Magic in a hotly contested match that proved to be a catalyst for changing his career. During the 2009-10 season, injuries forced James to be the point guard on the team and the Cavaliers reached the playoffs, losing to the Celtics in the second round.
On July 1, 2010, LeBron James became a free agent and several teams began to court him, including the Miami Heat, New York Knicks, New Jersey Nets, Los Angeles Clippers, and the Chicago Bulls. In a televised ESPN special, The Decision, James announced he would continue his career with the Heat. The day prior, free agents Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade signed with Miami, leading to a trio of future possible domination under the direction of Heat president Pat Riley.
During the 2010-11 season, James finished the season with 26.7 points and 7.5 rebounds, entering the playoffs as the second seed. The Heat advanced to the finals and eventually fell to the Dallas Mavericks in six games. For the next two years, James finally reached the next level of his career, accomplishing back to back championship wins. His off-season work with former NBA star Hakeem Olajuwon paid off, becoming the league MVP for the third time, and averaging 27.1 points and 7.9 rebounds throughout the season. During the 2012-13 season, he was named MVP yet again, with an average of 26.8 points and 8 rebounds. Two titles, two years, and expectations continued to rise and during the 2013-14 season, James scored a career high 61 points in a game against the Charlotte Bobcats and le the Heat t the Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, losing in five games.
On June 25, 2014, James announced his free agency status and a couple of weeks later declared his intention of rejoining the Cleveland Cavaliers, which was well received by fans. During the 2014-15 season, the Cavaliers advanced to the Finals by beating the Hawks, with James making history as the first player since the 60s to participate in five consecutive Finals. Despite losing in six games, James averaged 35.8 points and 13.3 rebounds and was under consideration for the Finals MVP Award. During the 2015-16 season, the Cleveland Cavaliers stormed through the playoffs and won the Championship, bringing the city its first professional sports title in 52 years, with James making history as the first player to lead both teams in all scoring categories for a playoff round, capping it off with an MVP Award. On February 4, 2017, James became the youngest player in the history of the NBA to surpass 28,000 career points.
Regarded by many as the current unofficial face of the NBA, LeBron James is not only considered exceptional on the court, but off it as well, working with league officials to increase the duration of the All-Star break and being elected the first Vice President of the National Basketball Players Association.
Ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the world’s most influential athletes, James has parlayed his career as a NBA player into lucrative partnerships with a slew of endorsements from Fortune 500 companies, leading the NBA in jersey sales six times. His philanthropy extends to several organizations, including the Boys & Girls Club of America, ONEXONE, and the Children’s Defense Fund. His own charity, the LeBron James Family Foundation, is based in Akron, Ohio and sponsors scholarships for thousands of children to attend college. In 2016, he donated $2.5 million to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture for an exhibition on Muhammad Ali.
Despite his endeavors and contributions, LeBron James has also courted controversy during his career. During his senior year of high school, he faced scrutiny when his mother received a Hummer H2 against his future earning power once he entered the NBA, which led to an investigation that cleared him of any wrongdoing. He was also cited for accepting $845 worth of jerseys in exchange for photos, which violated OHSAA rules and stripped him of his high school sports eligibility. After an appeal, the ruling reduced the penalty to a two-game suspension. During The Decision, a show in which he pledged signing to the Miami Heat, also drew ire from fans and former NBA players alike, gaining him a reputation for a period of time as one of the most unpopular players in the league.
As the first black man on the cover of Vogue, he again was criticized as the shot with supermodel Gisele Bündchen drew comparisons to the imagery of King Kong, with James characterized as a dark savage capturing his white love interest. He has also spoken out against several issues throughout his career including the Trayvon Martin case, the war in Darfur, the Michael Brown verdict, NBA owner Donald Sterling’s racist comments, and the death of Eric Garner, to name a few. He also donated money to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns.
On December 31, 2011, James proposed to his high school sweetheart Savannah Brinson on his 27th birthday, with the two marrying on September 14, 2013 in San Diego. The couple have three children together: LeBron James Jr., Bryce Maximus James, and Zhuri James. After signing with the Miami Heat, James bought an exclusive three-story mansion overlooking Biscayne Bay for $9 million and in 2015, a mansion in Brentwood, Los Angeles for $21 million.
- LeBron’s Dream Team: How Four Friends And I Brought a Championship Home by LeBron James
Written by: Triston Brewer