- LeBron Raymone James
December 30, 1984 (age 36)
- Basketball player, Athlete, Television producer, Screenwriter, Voice Actor
- Savannah Brinson
- Gloria Marie James, Anthony McClelland
LeBron Raymone James (born December 30, 1984) is an American professional basketball player currently playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He has started at the small forward and power forward positions. James has won two NBA championships, four NBA Most Valuable Player Awards, two NBA Finals MVP Awards, two Olympic gold medals, an NBA scoring title, and the NBA Rookie of the Year Award. He has also been selected to 11 NBA All-Star teams, 11 All-NBA teams, and six 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 Finals appearance in 2007, losing to the San Antonio Spurs. In 2010, he left the Cavaliers for the Miami Heat in a highly publicized ESPN special titled The Decision. James played four seasons for the Heat, reaching the Finals all four years and winning back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013. In 2013, he led Miami on a 27-game winning streak, the second longest in league history. Following his final season with the Heat, James opted out of his contract and re-joined the Cavaliers. Behind his leadership, Cleveland advanced to the Finals before losing to the Golden State Warriors.
Off the court, James has accumulated considerable wealth and fame as a result of numerous endorsement deals. His public life has been the subject of much scrutiny and he has been ranked as one of America's most influential and popular athletes. He has been featured in books, documentaries, and television commercials, and has hosted the ESPY Awards and Saturday Night Live.
James was born on December 30, 1984 in Akron, Ohio, to a 16-year-old mother, Gloria Marie James, who raised him on her own. Growing up, life was often a struggle for the family, as they moved from apartment to apartment in the seedier neighborhoods of Akron while James' mother struggled to find steady work. Realizing he would be better off with a more stable family environment, Gloria allowed James to move in with the family of Frank Walker, a local youth football coach, who introduced him to basketball when he 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 Catholic 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 with 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 Rhodes Arena to satisfy ticket demand from alumni, 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 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 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 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.
During 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 was named 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 its 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 posing for pictures, officially violating OHSAA rules and resulting in his 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 year. The Irish were also forced to forfeit one of their wins, their only official loss that season. In his first game back after the suspension, James scored a career-high 52 points.
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. He was eventually named the Rookie of the Year, finishing with averages of 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists 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 playoffs despite an 18-game improvement over the previous year.
Rise to superstardom (2004–2008)
James recorded his first career triple-double on January 19 of the 2004–05 season, becoming the youngest player in league history to do so 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 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 NBA history to be named to an All-NBA 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 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. Under James' leadership, the Cavaliers qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 1998. 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 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 with Dwyane 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.
James made his debut for the United States national team at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. He spent the Games mostly on the bench, 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 columnists Adrian 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.
Standing at six feet, eight inches tall and weighing 250 pounds, James has been ranked as one of the best physical specimens in sports due to his combination of agility, endurance, speed, and strength. He has started at small forward and power forward, but can also play and guard the other three positions. With career averages of 27.5 points, 7.2 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. James has earned All-NBA honors every season since his sophomore year, All-Defensive honors every season from 2009 to 2014, 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; only he and Russell have won four MVP awards in a five-year span. While James 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 and Sports Illustrated.
James proposed to Savannah Brinson, his high school sweetheart, on December 31, 2011 at a party celebrating New Year's Eve and his 27th birthday. The two were married on September 14, 2013 in San Diego. Together they have two sons, LeBron James, Jr. (nicknamed "Bronny") and Bryce Maximus James, and one daughter, Zhuri James. During his tenure with the Heat, James resided in Coconut Grove, an affluent Miami neighborhood, where he bought a three-story mansion overlooking Biscayne Bay for $9 million. He later listed the Miami property for $17 million after deciding to rejoin the Cavaliers.
James is considered by many, including his fellow players, to be the "face of the NBA". His opinions have yielded significant influence on important league decisions; for example, in 2014 he asked commissioner Adam Silver to increase the duration of the All-Star break, and the request was granted the following season. On February 13, 2015, James was elected the first Vice President of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA).