- Name: LeBron James
- Position: Small Forward
- Height: 6-8
- Weight: 250
- School: St. Vincent/St. Mary's High School, Akron Ohio
- Birthdate: December 30, 1984
- Home Town: Akron, Ohio
- Drafted: First overall (Cleveland Cavaliers), 2003 NBA Draft
Scouting ReportStrengths: Too many budding young superstars have been compared to Michael Jordan. LeBron plays more like Magic Johnson 2.0. He has remarkable quickness for his size and sees the floor as well as any guard; he's nominally a small forward, but is more than capable of running the point. But he also has the strength to defend all but the biggest power forwards and centers, which makes him an absolute matchup nightmare. He shoots the three-pointer well enough to command respect, which makes it even more difficult to defend him on the drive... and he may well be the best finisher in the world. He's probably the best perimeter defender in the league, and is able to play defense without fouling.
Weaknesses: James draws a great deal of criticism - not all of it deserved - for being too deferential; a pass to an open teammate is always the right textbook basketball play, but fans want to see the three-time MVP taking the last-second shot.
He has no post-up game to speak of; if he ever develops the ability to play with his back to the basket, he'll be totally unstoppable. And he's not a great free-throw shooter (career .746 from the line), which may make him less willing to attack the basket at key moments.
One of the Last Great Prep-to-ProsJames was a nationwide celebrity before graduating high school; his games at St. Vincent - St. Mary's were regularly picked up for broadcast by ESPN or pay-per-view providers. He was a mortal lock to be selected first overall in the 2003 NBA Draft, even before his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers won the draft lottery.
After the 2003-04 season, the NBA changed draft eligibility rules; since then, players must be at least 19 years old to enter the draft, which typically means at least one year of college ball before making the jump. James and Dwight Howard - the number one overall pick in 2004 - became the last superstar high-schoolers to graduate directly to the pros.
Cleveland CavaliersJames was an instant success in the NBA; with 25 points in his first professional game, he set a new record for points by a prep-to-pro making his professional debut. He would go on to win Rookie of the Year honors as the best player in a stellar draft class that also included Carmelo Anthony and future teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
But James couldn't turn the Cavs around single-handedly... the team finished with a 35-47 record. That was a major improvement from the previous year's 17-65 mark, but wasn't enough to qualify for the postseason.
The Cavaliers qualified for the playoffs in James' third season, reaching the Eastern Conference semifinals. In his fourth, they reached the Finals, but were swept by Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs. Some may point to that as evidence of James' inability to take over at crucial moments, but the fact that Cleveland reached the Finals at all with a team heavily reliant on the likes of Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall and Zydrunas Ilgauskas makes a pretty good counter-argument. Many consider that Cavs team to be the least-talented squad to reach the Finals in the better part of a decade.
Problems in assembling a championship-caliber supporting cast would continue to plague the Cavaliers. Despite ranking among the league's best regular-season teams and James' MVP-caliber play, their playoff runs in 2008, 2009 and 2010 were stopped by the Celtics, Magic and Celtics (again) without another trip to the championship series.
The Decision and the Miami HeatThe summer of 2010 proved to be a turning point for James - and the league as a whole. Several teams cleared salary cap space in the hopes of making a run and James and fellow free agents Wade, Bosh and Amar'e Stoudemire; James surprised many by turning his back on his hometown team and announcing his plans to "take his talents to South Beach." The format of the announcement was as controversial as the decision itself, as James and his handlers packaged "The Decision" into an hour-long television special broadcast by ESPN.
He further aggravated fans with a massive pep-rally with his new teammates, at which he predicted the newly-configured Miami Heat would win as many as eight NBA titles.
The Heat did reach the Finals in James' first season there, but lost to the Dallas Mavericks, four games to two. Miami struggled to overcome the Mavs' zone defensive schemes in the series; Dallas held James to 17.8 points per game during the series - nearly nine points below his season average.
James turned in a stellar campaign in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, winning his third MVP award in four seasons and leading the Heat back to the Finals.
International CompetitionJames has been a fixture on USA Basketball's senior national team since his arrival in the NBA, but with mixed results. In 2004, he was part of the so-called "Nightmare Team" in Athens. Olympic coach Larry Brown clashed with point guard Stephon Marbury and refused to play youngsters like James and Wade; that team finished a disappointing third. He was also a member of the 2006 World Championship squad that suffered a shocking upset at the hands of Greece in the quarterfinals, finishing with another bronze medal.
But with the 2008 "Redeem Team," James, Wade, Anthony and Bosh took on a much larger role and re-claimed the gold medal in Beijing. That foursome, along with Kevin Durant and other key players from the 2010 FIBA World Championship squad, will likely form the core of the 2012 team in London this summer.
Honors and AwardsA partial list of the awards and honors James has received during his basketball career:
- 2004 NBA Rookie of the Year
- NBA All-Star (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012)
- NBA Most Valuable Player (2009, 2010, 2012)
- All-NBA First Team (2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012)
- NBA All-Star Game MVP (2006, 2008)