Also Credited As:King James, LeBron Raymone James
|LeBron Raymone James on December 30, 1984 in Akron, Ohio, USA|
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LeBron Raymone James was born in Akron, OH on Dec. 30, 1984 to 16-year-old single mother Gloria Marie James. Gloria struggled to find steady work, and she and her son moved around from apartment to apartment, often in undesirable parts of town. James' father, a man named Anthony McClelland, was not really a part of Gloria and LeBron's lives. Gloria began dating Eddie Jackson in LeBron's youth, and despite being in and out of prison during that time period, Jackson and LeBron became close. Seeing an opportunity of stability for her son, Gloria allowed LeBron to move in with youth football coach, Frank Walker. It was Walker who first introduced a young LeBron James to basketball at nine-years-old. Soon, James began to play Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball for the Northeast Ohio Shooting Stars alongside his best friends Sian Cotton, Dru Joyce III and Willie McGee, who dubbed themselves the "Fab Four." The inseparable group chose to attend St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, a largely white establishment, instead of going to their local public school. One could say that this was James' first controversial "Decision."
In his freshman season, James played for for the St. Vincent-St. Mary varsity squad, going undefeated and winning the state title. LeBron's play was even better the following year, when they repeated as state champs. The buzz surrounding LeBron grew so large at this point, that the Fighting Irish had to keep up with ticket demand by often playing home games at the University of Akron's much larger Rhodes Arena, which seated 5,492 people. Alumni, locals, and college and NBA scouts all wanted to see the recently named Ohio's Mr. Basketball. He also earned a spot on the USA Today All-USA First Team. James was the first sophomore to win either honor.
Prior to his junior year of high school, LeBron James appeared in Slam Magazine, where writer Ryan Jones hailed him as possibly "the best high school basketball player in America right now." During the season, James became the first high school basketball player ever to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Later, in his book Shooting Stars, James would admit to using marijuana to help cope with the pressure he felt during this time in his career. As a senior, James and his teammates traveled the country playing nationally ranked teams. His high school career was an unprecedented success. It was perhaps only rivaled by the phenomenon that was LeBron James.
But James' senior year was not without controversy. For his 18th birthday, James' mother bought him a Hummer H2 truck, using a loan based on LeBron's earning potential as a professional basketball player. He also accepted two throwback jerseys in exchange for taking pictures at a clothing store. The Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) investigated both of these incidents and originally stripped LeBron James of his high school eligibility. An appeal eventually knocked the punishment down to a two-game suspension. The Fighting Irish had to forfeit one of its victories, the only loss of the season.
During high school, James was not just a basketball star. He was also a force on the gridiron. James was named First Team All-State football in his sophomore year. As a junior, he led his squad to the state semifinals. His football career ended though when James broke his wrist during an AAU basketball game his senior year. Many analysts, coaches and players maintain that James could have played in the National Football League.
After his senior basketball season, James participated in three high school all-star games, losing his NCAA eligibility and solidifying that he would enter the 2003 NBA Draft. At that time, Ryan Jones declared James "the most hyped basketball player ever." Was there ever any doubt that, with the first pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers would select LeBron James? Between the basketball skill and the hometown roots, James was a shoe-in for the overall number one selection, and his impact was felt immediately. In his very first professional game, James scored 25 points against the Sacramento Kings, setting an NBA record for a prep-to-pro debut. Later in the season, James dropped 41 on the New Jersey Nets, becoming the youngest player in league history to score 40 points. James was still just 19 years old.
James finished his first season with stats impressive enough to win him NBA Rookie of the Year. Until that point, only Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan had posted similar numbers. James was in pretty good company and off to a stellar professional start. The following season LeBron made his first NBA All-Star team. And the records kept falling. When James recorded his first triple-double on Jan. 19, 2005, he was the youngest in league history to do so. When he scored 56 points against the Toronto Raptors, James broke Cleveland's all-time single game scoring mark. James also became the youngest player in league history to be named to the All-NBA team. The biggest story in Cleveland though was that the Cavaliers made the playoffs for the first time since 1998. In his playoff debut, James became just the third player ever to record a triple-double his first time out. He was soon rewarded when James and the Cavaliers settled on a $60 million contract extension. The next season James led Cleveland all the way to the NBA Finals, where the San Antonio Spurs swept them in four games. Along the way though, James played perhaps his greatest game as a pro scoring a playoff franchise record 48 points against the Detroit Pistons. James scored 29 of Cleveland's final 30 points -- including the game-winning layup -- in what analysts generally rank one of the top postseason efforts in NBA history.
In 2007, James made headlines off the court, when he and Damon Jones refused to sign a petition from teammate Ira Newbie over the Chinese government's role in the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan. James said he didn't sign because he didn't have enough information on the subject. And in March 2008, James, posing with model Gisele Bundchen became the first African-American man to appear on the cover of Vogue. Even the Annie Leibovitz photo drew racial controversy though, as the duo's pose was eerily similar to the movie poster from "King Kong."
On the court, things went smoother for James. During the 2007-2008 season, James won his first NBA scoring title, averaging an even 30 points per game, but he and the Cavs were eliminated in the second-round of the playoffs. James showed off his defense in 2008-2009, when he made his first All-Defensive Team, recording 93 blocks. He became just the fourth player in NBA history to lead his team in all five major statistical categories: total points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. In doing so, James became the first Cleveland Cavalier to win the NBA MVP Award. The Cavs once again fell shy though, losing to Orlando in the Conference Finals. In the off-season, James found himself in the headlines once more when Xavier guard Jordan Crawford dunked on him at the Nike LeBron James Skills Academy. Making matters much worse, tournament organizers confiscated all tape of the play.
For the second consecutive year, LeBron James won the NBA MVP Award in 2009-2010. Cleveland finished the regular season with the league's best record for the second year in a row as well. But James played poorly in the postseason this time around, and the Cavaliers lost once more in round two to the Boston Celtics. James' performance, or lack thereof, led some to question his leadership and "clutch gene."
On July 1, 2010, at 12:01 a.m. ET, LeBron James became an unrestricted free agent. James decided he would reveal his choice on a live ESPN special titled, "The Decision." The program was broadcast from the Boys & Girls Club in Greenwich, CT and raised $2.5 million for the charity. An additional $3.5 million was raised for other charities through advertising revenue. Ultimately, James announced that he would join friends Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade on the Miami Heat, famously saying, "In this fall, this is very tough, in this fall I'm going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat." The move and the TV special drew a tremendous amount of criticism. James was officially the NBA's "villain." The idea was not just to win a championship -- it was to win multiple championships. Or as James put it at the Miami Heat's welcome party, "Not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven..." And Miami had a great chance in that first season, but they ultimately blew a 2-1 game NBA Finals lead to the Dallas Mavericks, losing in six. James continued to draw criticism after averaging only 17.8 points per game and just three points in the fourth quarters.
LeBron became obsessed. After working hard in the offseason, James came back stronger than ever. He again would be named league MVP. But more importantly, he was named NBA Finals Most Valuable Player when he led Miami to its second ever championship, his first. James finally had a ring, and fans could officially discuss him among the greats. But that NBA Championship jewelry was not James' only gold hardware. He won Olympic gold as a key member of Team USA in 2008 and 2012, after being on the bench for the disappointing bronze-medal finish in 2004. During the 2012 campaign, James became the first member of Team USA to record a triple-double, and also became the all-time leading scorer in U.S. men's basketball history. When the Olympics wrapped up, James joined Michael Jordan as the only two players to win the NBA MVP Award, NBA Championship and Olympic Gold Medal in the same year, inviting even more comparisons between the two all-time greats. In Feb. 2013, King James lead the Heat to a 27-game winning streak -- the second longest in league history.
LeBron James is just as popular off the court as he is on it. He has major endorsement deals with Nike, Sprite, McDonald's, State Farm and Dunkin' Brands, to name a few. His endorsement payments have become so vast that James was even made part owner in English Premier League football club, Liverpool F.C., in one such deal. In addition to his work with the Boys & Girls Club, James and his mother Gloria established the LeBron James Family Foundation in 2004. Its mission is to help children and single-parent families in need. Among its many programs, the organization builds playgrounds in economically disadvantaged areas and hosts an annual bike-a-thon.