When it comes to the NBA, few names elicit as much polarizing emotion as LeBron James. Hes been anointed as the Chosen One, castigated as a wannabe King, or simply seen as the greatest of all time. Love him or hate him, there is no denying that LeBron James has established one of the greatest legacies in professional basketball history, and is a first ballot Hall of Famer without question.
In this piece, we'll take a look back at the career of LeBron James. We'll examine his journey from prep school phenom to global icon, some of his greatest rivals, his determination to give back to underserved communities and of course, his incredible stats and accomplishments.
It All Started in Akron
LeBron Raymone James was born in Akron, Ohio on December 30th 1984. From a young age, he was a prodigious talent, easily dominating local playgrounds and drawing crowds of onlookers whenever he stepped on the court.
At the age of 12, he already stood 6'3'' and would eventually become the star of the local St. Vincent St. Mary high school team, helping them to three consecutive Division III titles. He was also named Ohio Mr. Basketball twice and was offered a scholarship to the University of Akron even before graduating high school.
From High School to the Pros
In 2002, after much deliberation and against the wishes of the University of Akron, he decided against college and declared himself ready for the NBA Draft. He went on to be selected as the number one pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers, a decision that would shape the next decade of his life.
Rise to Stardom
In his rookie season, James was named the NBA Rookie of the Year and soon established himself as one of the best players in the league, leading the Cavaliers to their first-ever playoff appearance and winning the NBA scoring title in 2004-05.
James’ rise to stardom continued to the 2006-07 season, when he became the first Cavalier to win the NBA MVP award. He then led the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in 2007, where they eventually lost to the San Antonio Spurs in a hard fought series.
In 2008, James was presented with his second consecutive MVP award, joining the illustrious ranks of Michael Jordan, Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain.
Despite his personal and team success, James’ relationship with the Cavaliers soured in the 2010-11 season and he decided to pursue free agency. After much drama, he announced in an ESPN special that he would be joining Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat for the 2010-11 season.
The Decision, as it became known, became one of the most controversial moves in basketball history, with some players calling out James for being disloyal to the Cavaliers and their fans. Nevertheless, Miami had successfully assembled a super team and expectations for a championship were high.
The Heat Years
To say the Miami Heat years were successful for LeBron James would be an understatement. He was an integral part of the Heat’s two championship wins, the first in 2012 and the second in 2013. He also won two more MVP awards in 2012 and 2013 and led Miami to four consecutive Finals appearances, a feat only previously achieved by the Larry Bird-led Boston Celtics.
LeBron's Return to Cleveland
In 2014, James announced his decision to return to his hometown and re-sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers. This time, his decision to leave Miami was much more positively received, as James had made it clear that he wanted to bring a championship to the city of Cleveland.
In 2016, his wish came true, as the Cavaliers overcame a 3-1 deficit to beat the defending champions the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. This gave Cleveland and their fans the ultimate prize, and it cemented James’ legacy as one of the greatest players in NBA history.
Legacy of Giving Back
One of the most commendable aspects of LeBron’s legacy is his desire to give back to underserved communities. He is a founding partner of the I PROMise school in Akron, which focuses on helping at risk youth, and his LeBron James Family Foundation has donated over $50 million to support various causes.
Love him or hate him, the legacy of LeBron James will not soon be forgotten. He is one of the greatest players in NBA history and his record breaking stats, commitment to on court excellence and philanthropy will ensure that he is remembered for many years to come.
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