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LeBron Raymone James (//; born December 30, 1984), nicknamed "King James", is an American professional basketball player for the Miami Heat of theNational Basketball Association (NBA). Standing at 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m) and weighing in at 250 lbs (113 kg), he has played the small forward and power forward positions for Miami, as well as the Cleveland Cavaliers. James has been a two-time NBA champion, a four-time NBA Most Valuable Player, a two-time NBA Finals MVP, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, an NBA scoring champion, and the NBA Rookie of the Year. He has also been selected to nine NBA All-Starteams, nine All-NBA teams, and five All-Defensive teams, and is the Cavaliers' all-time leading scorer.
James played high school basketball at St. Vincent–St. Mary High School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, where he was highly promoted in the national media as a future NBA superstar. After graduating, he was selected with the first overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft by the Cavaliers. James led Cleveland to the franchise's first NBA Finals appearance in 2007, losing to the San Antonio Spursin a sweep. In 2010, he left the Cavaliers for the Heat in a highly publicized free agency period. In his first season in Miami, the Heat reached the Finals, but lost to the Dallas Mavericks. James won his first championship in 2012 when Miami defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, earning the NBA Finals MVP Award for his play. In 2013, the Heat won their second consecutive title and he repeated as Finals MVP. His career achievements and leadership role during the Heat's 2012 and 2013 championship runs have led many basketball analysts, experts, and writers to consider him the best player in the NBA today.
Off the court, James has accumulated considerable wealth and fame as a result of numerous endorsement contracts. His public life has been the subject of much scrutiny, and he has been ranked as one of America's most disliked and influential athletes. He has also been featured in books, documentaries, and television commercials, and has hosted the ESPY Awards and Saturday Night Live.
Childhood and youth
James was born on December 30, 1984 in Akron, Ohio to a 16-year-old mother, Gloria Marie James, who raised LeBron on her own. Growing up, life was often a struggle for LeBron and Gloria, who moved from apartment to apartment in the seedier neighborhoods of Akron while Gloria struggled to find steady work.Realizing he would be better off with a more stable family environment, Gloria allowed LeBron to move in with the family of Frank Walker, a local youth football coach, who introduced LeBron to basketball when LeBron was nine-years-old.
As a youth, James 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. Inseparable, they dubbed themselves the "Fab Four" and promised each other they would attend high school together. In a move that stirred local controversy, they chose to attend St. Vincent–St. Mary High School, a largely white private school, instead of their local public school.
High school career
In his freshman year, James averaged 21 points and 6 rebounds per game for St. Vincent-St. Mary's varsity team. The Fighting Irish finished the year 27–0, winning the Division III state title. In his sophomore year, James averaged 25.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, while also contributing 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 capacity Rhodes Arena to satisfy ticket demand from alumni, local fans, and 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's Mr. Basketball and was selected to the USA Today All-USA First Team, becoming the first ever sophomore to do either.
Prior to the start of James' junior year, he appeared in SLAM Magazine and was lauded as possibly "the best high school basketball player in America right now" by writer Ryan Jones. During the season, he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, becoming the first ever underclass high school basketball player to do so. With averages of 29 points, 8.3 rebounds, 5.7 assists, and 3.3 steals per game, he was again named Ohio's Mr. Basketball and selected to the USA Today All-USA First Team, and became the first ever junior to win the boys' basketball Gatorade National Player of the Year Award. St. Vincent-St. Mary finished the year with a 23–4 record, ending their season with a loss in the Division II championship game. Following the loss, James seriously considered declaring for the 2002 NBA Draft, unsuccessfully petitioning for an adjustment to the NBA's draft eligibility rules which required prospective players to have at least graduated from high school. During this time, James used marijuana to help cope with stress resulting from the constant media attention he was receiving.
In his senior year, James and the Fighting Irish traveled around the country to play a number of nationally ranked teams, including a game against Oak Hill Academy that was nationally televised on ESPN2. Time Warner Cable, looking to capitalize on James' popularity, offered St. Vincent-St. Mary's games to subscribers on a pay-per-view basis throughout the season. For the year, James averaged 31.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 3.4 steals per game, was named Ohio's Mr. Basketball and USA Today All-USA First Team for an unprecedented third consecutive year, and 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 2003 McDonald's All-American Game—, losing his NCAA eligibility and making it official he would enter the 2003 NBA Draft. According to Ryan Jones, James left high school as "the most hyped basketball player ever".
During his senior year, James was the centerpiece of several controversies. For his 18th birthday, he accepted a Hummer H2 from his mother, who secured a loan for the vehicle utilizing LeBron's future earning power as a professional athlete. This prompted an investigation by the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) as their guidelines state that no amateur may accept any gift valued over $100 as a reward for athletic performance. Later in the season, James accepted two throwback jerseys worth $845 from an urban clothing store in exchange for his 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 season. The Irish were also forced to forfeit one of their wins, their only official loss that season.
James played wide receiver for St. Vincent-St. Mary's football team in high school. As a sophomore, he was named first-team all-state, and as a junior, he led the Fighting Irish to the state semifinals. His football career came to an end before his senior year when he broke his wrist during an AAU basketball game. Many sports analysts, football critics, high school coaches, and former and current players have speculated on whether he could have played in the National Football League.
Cleveland Cavaliers (2003–2010)
Rookie season (2003–04)
James was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the first overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. In his first professional game, he recorded 25 points against the Sacramento Kings, setting an NBA record for most points scored by a prep-to-pro player in his debut outing. In a late season match-up with the New Jersey Nets, he scored a season-high 41 points, becoming the youngest player in league history to score at least 40 points in a game at 19 years. He was eventually named the Rookie of the Year, finishing with averages of 20.9 points, 5.9 assists, and 5.5 rebounds per game. He became the first Cavalier to receive the honor and joined Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan as the only players in NBA history to average at least 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game in their rookie year (Tyreke Evans has since joined this group). The Cavaliers finished the season 35–47, failing to make the playoffsdespite an 18-game improvement over the previous year.
Rise to superstardom (2004–08)
James recorded his first career triple-double on January 19 of the 2004–05 season, becoming the youngest player in league history to record a triple-double at 20 years. His play earned him his first All-Star Game selection, where he added 13 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists in a winning effort for the Eastern Conference. On March 20, he scored a career-high 56 points against the Toronto Raptors, setting Cleveland's new single game points record. With averages of 27.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.2 assists, and 2.2 steals per game to finish the season, he became the youngest player in league history to be named to an All-NBA Team, being selected to the All-NBA Second Team.Despite a 30–20 record to start the year, Cleveland again failed to make the playoffs, finishing the season at 42-40.
At the 2006 All-Star Game, James led the East to victory with a 29 point and 6 rebound performance, becoming the youngest ever winner of the All-Star Game MVP Award at 21 years, 51 days. For the season, he averaged 31.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game, becoming the youngest player in league history to average at least 30 points per game. He was considered a strong candidate for the Most Valuable Player Award, but eventually finished second in the voting to Steve Nash; however, he was awarded co-MVP honors with Nash by The Sporting News, and was named to the All-NBA First Team for the first time in his career. Under James' leadership, the Cavaliers qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 1998, improving their record by 33 wins from the year before he was drafted. In his playoff debut, he 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 defending Eastern Conference champion Detroit Pistons in the second round.
After the 2006 Playoffs, James and the Cavaliers negotiated a three-year, $60 million contract extension with a player option for a fourth year. Although it was for fewer years and less money than the maximum he could sign, it allotted him the option of seeking a new contract worth more money as an unrestricted free agent following the 2009–10 season. He discussed this decision withDwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, fellow members of his 2003 draft class, who also re-signed with their respective teams while allowing them to be unrestricted agents in 2010.
For the 2006–07 season, James averaged 27.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 6.0 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. The Cavaliers finished the year with 50 wins for the second consecutive year and enteredthe playoffs as the East's second seed. In the first round, Cleveland swept the Wizards, and in the second round, they defeated the Nets en route to a rematch with the Pistons from the year before. In Game 5 against Detroit, James notched a playoff franchise record 48 points with 9 rebounds and 7 assists, and scored 29 of the Cavaliers' last 30 points including the game-winning lay-up with two seconds left. After the game, play-by-play announcer Marv Albert called the performance "one of the greatest moments in postseason history" and color commentator Steve Kerrcalled it "Jordan-esque." In 2012, ESPN ranked the performance the fourth greatest in NBA playoff history. Cleveland won the series to advance to the Finals versus the Spurs, losing in four games. For the postseason, James averaged 25.1 points, 8.0 assists, and 8.1 rebounds per game, although his Finals averages dropped to 22.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 6.8 assists per game.
During the 2007–08 season, James was named the All-Star Game MVP for the second time behind a 27 point, 8 rebound, 9 assist, 2 steal, and 2 block 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. With seven triple-doubles to finish the year, James set a new personal and team record for triple-doubles in a season. His 30 points per game were also the highest in the league, representing 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 were matched up with the Wizards in the first round for the third consecutive season. In a pre-series interview, Washington guard DeShawn Stevenson stirred up controversy when he called James "overrated". James answered by saying that responding to Stevenson would be like rap icon Jay-Z feuding with one-hit wonder Soulja Boy. In the series, Cleveland defeated the Wizards in six games before being eliminated in seven games by the 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".
First MVP reign (2008–10)
In the 2008–09 season, James finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting and made his first All-Defensive Team behind 23 chase-down blocks and a career-high 93 total blocks. Behind his play and the acquisition of All-Star Mo Williams, the Cavaliers went a franchise record 66–16 and fell one game short of matching the best home record in league history. With averages of 28.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 1.7 steals, and a career-high 1.2 blocks per game, James became the first Cavalier to win the NBA MVP Award. In the playoffs, Cleveland swept the Pistons and the Atlanta Hawks to earn a match-up with the Orlando Magic in the Conference Finals. In Game 1 of the series, James scored 49 points with a 66 percent shooting rate 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, an act many media members viewed as unsportsmanlike. He later told reporters: "It's hard for me to congratulate somebody after you just lose to them, I'm a winner. It's not being a poor sport or anything like that. If somebody beats you up, you're not going to congratulate them. ... I'm a competitor. That's what I do. It doesn't make sense for me to go over and shake somebody's hand." 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.
To address their lack of an inside presence against the Magic, the Cavaliers traded for center Shaquille O'Neal before the 2009-10 season. To give James more scoring help, Cleveland also added All-Star Antawn Jamison to their roster at the trading deadline.At the end of the season, James was named MVP for the second consecutive year with averages of 29.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, a career-high 8.6 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1 block per game on 50 percent shooting. With the additions of O'Neal and Jamison, the Cavaliers finished the season with the league's best record for the second straight year. In the playoffs, Cleveland beat the Bulls in the first round but fell to the Celtics in the second round. James was heavily criticized for not playing well, particularly in Game 5 of the series when he shot only 20 percent on 14 shots, scoring 15 points. At the conclusion of the game he walked off the court to a smattering of boos from the Cavaliers' home crowd, the team having just suffered their worst home playoff loss ever. Cleveland were officially eliminated in Game 6, with James recording 27 points, 19 rebounds, and 10 assists, but on just 38 percent shooting with 9 turnovers.
2010 free agency
James became an unrestricted free agent at 12:01 am EDT on July 1, 2010. During his free agency he was courted 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, broadcast from theBoys & Girls Club of Greenwich, Connecticut, raised $2.5 million for the charity and an additional $3.5 million from advertisement revenue that was donated to other charities. The day before the special, fellow free agents Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade had also announced they would sign with Miami. James decided to join with Bosh and Wade in part so that he could shoulder less load offensively, thinking that his improved teammates would give him a better chance of winning a 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. Relieved of the burden of scoring, James thought he could be the first player to average a triple-double in a season since Oscar Robertson.
James drew immense criticism from sports analysts, executives, fans, and current and former players for leaving the Cavaliers. The Decision itself was also scrutinized and viewed as unnecessary. Many thought the prolonged wait for James' 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' 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 guy". 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, James quickly gained a reputation as one of America's most disliked athletes, a radical change from years prior. The phrase "taking my talents to South Beach" became a punch line for critics.
Immediately following The Decision, James claimed that there was nothing he would change about the handling of his free agency despite all the criticism. Since then, he has expressed remorse over his actions. During the 2010–11 season, he said he "probably would do it a little bit different ... But I’m happy with my decision." James relented about the special before the 2011–12 season: "... if the shoe was on the other foot and I was a fan, and I was very passionate about one player, and he decided to leave, I would be upset too about the way he handled it."
Miami Heat (2010–present)
Debut season (2010–11)
James officially became a member of the Heat on July 10, completing a sign-and-trade six-year contract with the team. With the move, he became only the third reigning MVP to change teams and the first since Moses Malone in 1982. Although his contract would have allowed him to earn the maximum salary under the collective bargaining agreement, he took less money in order for Miami to be able to afford Bosh and Wade as well as further roster support. 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, James embraced the villain role bestowed upon him by the media. He later said that the negativity surrounding him as a result of his actions during the 2010 free agency "basically turned me into somebody I wasn't ... You start to hear 'the villain,' now you have to be the villain, you know, and I started to buy into it. I started to play the game of basketball at a level, or at a mind state that I've never played at before ... meaning, angry. And that's mentally. That's not the way I play the game." He often played the point guard role that Pat Riley sold to him during free agency, and in an early season victory versus the Minnesota Timberwolves, he was Miami's primary ball handler and registered a game-high 12 assists, the most ever by a Heat forward. On December 2, he returned to Cleveland for the first time since departing as a free agent, scoring 38 points and leading Miami to a win while being booed every time he touched the ball. He finished his debut season on the Heat with averages of 26.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, 7 assists, and 1.6 steals per game on 51 percent shooting. Entering the playoffs as the East's second seed, Miami defeated the Philadelphia 76ers, the Celtics, and the first-seeded Bulls before stumbling in the Finals against the Dallas Mavericks, losing in six games despite holding a 2–1 series lead going into Game 4. James received the brunt of the criticism for the loss, averaging only 3 points in fourth quarters in the series. His scoring average of 17.8 points per game signified an 8.9-point drop from the regular season, the lowest such drop-off in league history.
Back-to-back championships and second MVP reign (2011–present)
Humbled by the Heat's loss to the Mavericks, James spent the offseason attempting to improve himself as a basketball player and a person, and worked with Hakeem Olajuwon on his post game. His work with Olajuwon paid off, fueling what writer Kirk Goldsberry called "one of the greatest and most important transformations in recent sports history". Behind James' more post-oriented play, Miami matched their best start to a season in franchise history, and at the conclusion of the lockout-shortened2011–12 campaign, James was 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.
The Heat entered the 2012 Playoffs with the second seed in the East. They defeated the Knicks in five games in the first round before falling behind 2–1 to the Indiana Pacers in the second round. In Game 4, James turned in one of the best all-around performances of his career, registering 40 points, 18 rebounds, and 9 assists in a winning effort on the road. Miami eventually won the series in six games. In the Conference Finals, the Heat again faced the Celtics, winning the first two games before dropping the next three. Facing elimination, James led Miami to victory by scoring 45 points in Game 6, making 19 of 26 shot attempts for a 73 percent shooting rate. The Heat won Game 7 to advance to the Finals versus the Oklahoma City Thunder. Despite holding a 13-point first half lead in Game 1, Miami lost the first game of the series but rebounded to win the next two games and go up 2–1. Game 4 proved to be a memorable one for James. With five minutes left in the game, he started experiencing leg cramps and was carried off the floor. He returned soon after and hit a three-pointer with 2:51 left to give the Heat a three point lead they did not relinquish. In Game 5, James registered his only triple-double of the season as Miami defeated Oklahoma City for their second ever championship and James' first championship. James was unanimously voted the Finals MVP with averages of 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 7.4 assists per game. His final playoff averages were 30.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game.
In February of the 2012–13 season, James had a "month for the ages", setting multiple shooting efficiency records and becoming the first player since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar inMarch 1983 to take more than 200 shots in a calendar month and make at least 64 percent of them. During this period, the Heat began a 27-game winning streak, the second longest in NBA history. Behind his play, Miami 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.
To start the 2013 Playoffs, the Heat defeated the Milwaukee Bucks and Bulls en route to a Conference Finals match-up versus the Pacers. In Game 1 against Indiana, James scored a buzzer-beating layup in overtime to give Miami a one point victory. Throughout the series, James' 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 won the series in seven games, advancing 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, James was criticized for his lack of aggressiveness and poor shot selection as Miami fell behind 2-3. In Game 6, James recorded his second triple-double of the series including 16 fourth quarter points to lead the Heat to a comeback victory. In Game 7, Miami defeated San Antonio for their second consecutive championship. James notched 37 points in the deciding game, tying the record for most points scored in an NBA Finals Game 7 victory. 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 series and 25.9 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game for the playoffs.
James made his debut for the United States national team at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. U.S. Olympic coach Larry Brown said that James, accustomed to being a star, was not 100% receptive to a reduced role. James spent the Olympics mostly on the bench without quality playing time, 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 professionals to their line-up. 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 columnistsAdrian 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' 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 Kobe 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 the Games, he recorded the first triple-double in U.S. Olympic basketball history.[a] 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, 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."
Standing at six feet, eight inches tall and weighing in at 250 pounds, James has been called the best physical specimen in sports by some sports analysts. He has started at small forwardand power forward, but can also play the other three positions. With career averages of 27.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 6.9 assists, and 1.7 steals per game, he is considered one of the most versatile players in the NBA, and has been compared to Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan. He has earned All-NBA honors every season since his sophomore year, All-Defensive honors every season since 2009, and was named Rookie of the Year in his debut season. With four MVP awards, he is part of a select group of players who have won the award four times, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, and Bill Russell. James is one of only three players to have won a championship, Finals MVP Award, and MVP Award in the same season multiple times. While he 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. Since 2011, he has been ranked the best player in the NBA by ESPN's #NBArank project.
In Cleveland, James was used as an on-ball point forward. Although his shooting tendencies were perimeter-oriented, he established himself as one of the best slashers and finishers in basketball, leading the NBA in three point plays in 2006. During his tenure with the Cavaliers, he was frequently criticized for not having developed a reliable jump shot or post game, areas he improved in Miami, where Heat coach Erik Spoelstra changed James' role to a more unconventional one. James began spending more time in the post and shooting fewer three pointers, attempting a career-low 149 in 2012. He improved his shot selection and accuracy on jump shots, finishing second in the league in catch-and-shoot field goal percentage in 2013. He also learned how to work as an off-ball cutter in the Heat's "pass-happy" offense. Throughout his career, James' playmaking ability has been praised; in one article, writer Rob Mahoney described him as a "fantastic passer". Using his size, vision, and the attention he garners from opposing defenses to his advantage, James is able to create easy points for his teammates with accurate assists, manufacturing a league leading 2.6 three pointers per game by way of his passing alone in 2013.
At the beginning of James' career, he was considered a poor defensive player, but improved steadily through the years. Near the end of his tenure in Cleveland, he became proficient at the chase-down block; coming in from behind the opposition in transition to block their shot. In Miami, he developed into a more versatile defender, and the Heat relied on him to guard all five positions.Paired with teammates 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.
James' clutch play has been the subject of much scrutiny throughout his career. He has been repeatedly criticized by the media for his play in pressure situations; specifically, for passing instead of shooting in the waning seconds of close games. In a 2011 interview, teammate Chris Bosh stated that he would rather have Dwyane Wade take a last-second shot than James. On the other hand, a 2011 article by Henry Abbott revealed that James had a better shooting percentage with the game on the line than such notables as Ray Allen and Kobe Bryant. Additionally, a 2012 feature by ESPN ranked three of James' playoff performances as some of the greatest in NBA history.
Life outside basketball
James has two children with his high school sweetheart, Savannah Brinson. The first, LeBron James, Jr., was born on October 6, 2004, and the second, Bryce Maximus James, on June 14, 2007. They currently reside in Coconut Grove, a Miami suburb, where James bought a three-story mansion overlooking Biscayne Bay for $9 million. James became engaged to Brinson on December 31, 2011, proposing to her at a party to celebrate New Year’s Eve and his 27th birthday. They are scheduled to wed on the weekend of September 13–15, 2013 in San Diego.
James is represented by agent Rich Paul of Klutch Sports. James has numerous endorsement contracts; some of the companies he does business with are Audemars Piguet, Coca-Cola, Dunkin' Brands, McDonald's, Nike, State Farm, andSamsung. Coming out of high school, he was the target of a three-way bidding war between Nike, Reebok, and adidas,eventually signing with Nike for approximately $90 million. His signature shoes have performed well for Nike, and in 2013 he led all NBA players in shoe sales. In 2011, Fenway Sports Group became the sole global marketer of his rights, and as part of the deal, he and his manager Maverick Carter were granted minority stakes in the English Premier League football club Liverpool F.C. As a result of James' endorsement money and NBA salary, he has been listed as one of the world's highest-paid athletes. In 2013, he surpassed Kobe Bryant as the highest paid basketball player in the world with earnings of $56.5 million.
James, with comedian Jimmy Kimmel, co-hosted the 2007 ESPY Awards. In other comedic pursuits, he hosted the 33rd season premiere of Saturday Night Live. In 2009, he was featured in the Lions Gate documentary More Than a Game, which chronicled his high school years. He has also tried his hand at acting, appearing in a cameo role on the HBO series Entourage.
In 2010, James was ranked by Forbes as the second most influential athlete behind Lance Armstrong. As a member of the Cavaliers, he was adored by local fans, with Sherwin-Williams displaying a giant Nike-produced banner of James on their world headquarters throughout his tenure with the team. Despite their affection for James, Cleveland fans and critics were frequently annoyed when he attended Cleveland Indians games against the New York Yankees dressed in a Yankees hat. Following his actions during the 2010 free agency period and, more specifically, The Decision, he has been listed as one of the most disliked athletes.
A philanthropist, James is an active supporter of the Boys & Girls Club of America, Children's Defense Fund, and ONEXONE. He has also established his own charity foundation called the LeBron James Family Foundation, based out of Akron. Since 2005, the foundation has held an annual bike-a-thon in Akron to raise money for various causes.
In March 2008, James became the first black man—and third man overall after Richard Gere and George Clooney—to appear on the cover of Vogue, posing with Gisele Bündchen. Some sports bloggers and columnists considered the cover offensive, describing the demeanor of James and his holding Bündchen as a reference to classic imagery of the movie monster King Kong, a dark savage capturing his light-skinned love interest.
While James has largely avoided political issues, he drew criticism in 2007 when he declined to sign a petition started by his Cavaliers teammate Ira Newble regarding the Chinese government's alleged involvement in the ongoing conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan, stating that he did not know enough about the issue. A year later, James did talk publicly about the issue, saying, "At the end of the day we're talking about human rights. And people should understand that human rights and people's lives are in jeopardy. We're not talking about contracts here. We're not talking about money. We're talking about people's lives being lost and that means a lot more to me than some money or a contract." In June 2008, James donated $20,000 to a committee to elect Barack Obama. On October 29, 2008, James gathered almost 20,000 people at the Quicken Loans Arena for a viewing of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama's 30-minute American Stories, American Solutions television advertisement. It was shown on a large screen above the stage, where Jay-Z later held a free concert.
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