Who is your favorite basketball player? We’re almost certain that someone is bound to say LeBron James, and that is going to make them very happy to see our list. There is no doubting that James has lived an interesting life. You’re going to learn about his childhood and the struggles that he had to overcome. But also all about the hobbies and interests that he took to at an early age. In the process, you’ll learn how James incorporated his upbringing and life experiences into his outstanding NBA career. Even though LeBron James is still hanging on after 13 seasons of playing professional basketball, there is no shortage of moments where he leaves everyone speechless. This kid was practically born to be an athlete, and it becomes obvious when you watch him play a game of basketball.
Yet you may be surprised to learn that basketball was not LeBron James’ first love. No, he was definitely interested in something else, but his path has led him to become a highly-rewarded, super-accomplished NBA player who has smashed records, made history, and astounded players, fans, and coaches all around the world. The story of LeBron James can be considered a classic rags to riches story, especially considering that he is now one of the highest-earning basketball players out there. We challenge you to find a fitness product that has not mentioned LeBron James or been endorsed by him. One quick look at his stats and you can see why he’s such a hot commodity.
15. He Didn’t Go To College
When we think of a lot of professional basketball players, we often think back to their time as a college player. Yet for LeBron James, there was no college experience. The young James skipped a higher education and went straight to the NBA, joining the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003. In fact, James was the first basketball player to be drafted in the 2003 NBA draft. That is pretty darn impressive for a young gun straight out of high school! Granted, James did play high school basketball, scoring points on the basketball team at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio. By the time James was a sophomore in high school, he was being publicly recognized for his basketball skills. He made it to the USA-Today All-USA First Team and was named the Gatorade Player of the Year. As a senior, his per-game average was a whopping 31.6 points.
14. He Was the Youngest Rookie of the Year
LeBron James was definitely a record-breaking basketball player. When he was just 20 years old, he was named the NBA Rookie of the Year. This was during his very first season with the Cleveland Cavs (2003 to 2004), and James also smashed the Cavs’ losing record by becoming their first team player to earn the Rookie of the Year Award. To make the accomplishment even more amazing, James joined the ranks of Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan by becoming only the third NBA rookie to average 20 points per game. His stellar NBA status and promise even as a young rookie helped him to clinch a spot on the US Olympic Basketball team at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. The US team was able to achieve the bronze medal. James was on a roll, and his stats would only keep improving.
13. The Impact Of His Charity Work
You may not have known that James started the LeBron James Family Foundation in 2004. It was a joint effort with his mother, and the mission of the foundation was to help single mothers and their children. Part of the foundation’s efforts include building playgrounds and play spaces in neighborhoods that have high populations of economically disadvantaged people. Also, every year, the foundation hosts a bike-a-thon to raise awareness and funds for the organization. James also makes it a point to partner up with the Boys & Girls Club of America, since James spent a lot of time in the organization during his childhood. James and his foundation also do renovation work on former playgrounds and rec centers, as well as hosting an annual All-Star Weekend for the kids. Other events include trips to amusement parks, film screenings and fundraisers, family days, and more. It is a very heartfelt effort from such a successful athlete.
12. He Had a Rough Childhood
James’ mother was just a teen when she had him, so his childhood in Akron, Ohio ended up being tough. He spent some time living with family and friends during his younger years when his mother needed the extra help and stability with raising a child. Even though it was tough, sports were like an outlet for James, who used basketball as a means to release tension and work through the struggles. James was a natural talent at the sport, and it showed almost from the moment he picked up a basketball. During 1993 and 1994, when James was only in the fourth grade, he had a lot of upheaval in his life. He missed about half the school year because he was moving between several homes and his father figure was behind bars. The life that James knew was filled with welfare money, constant moves to someone else’s sofa, and feelings of shyness.
11. He Fell in Love With Football First
Surprise, surprise! James may have been a natural when it came to basketball, but the first sport that he fell head over heels in love with was football. James was living in Ohio with his mother when he was spotted by a recreational football coach, Bruce Kelker. Bruce was roaming the neighborhood looking for young boys who he could recruit to his team. He saw how fast James ran, as well as how tall he already was at 8 years of age, and asked him if he liked playing football. It turned out that football was young James’ favorite sport. So he was recruited, joined the team, and outran the fastest boy on the team by 15 yards. Even though James had not played organized football before that time, he was able to help his new teammates get some awesome wins and play like a real team. That sportsmanship clearly carried over to basketball.
10. He Has Multiple MVP’s
By now we know that LeBron James is one of the NBA pros who will forever go down in history. Besides being part of several championships in Miami along with Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade, LeBron also shattered or tied records that had been held by the best of the best in NBA history. Moreover, for the past decade or so, James has pretty much been living at the top of the MVP list. He has won four MVP Awards and has finished a season in the Top 5 tier a whopping ten times. That is a record that has him tied with Michael Jordan. 2009 to 2013 was a stellar time period for James, who won MVP awards both while playing with the Cleveland Cavs and the Miami Heat. He is also only 2 MVP awards behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, for an NBA record. Not to mention he has 3 NBA Finals MVP awards and most recently brought a championship to Cleveland this past season.
9. He’s Ambidextrous
Well, that may explain why James has such complete dominance over the ball when he’s on the court. Nothing can stop a guy who is ambidextrous. Being able to use both his right hand and his left hands has probably come in handy (no pun intended) more times than he can count. If you were to closely watch James during his day to day life, you would notice that he flip flops between using his right hand and his left hand. When he is eating or writing, he is a lefty. When he is on the basketball court and playing some ball, he is using his right hand to shoot and score major points. He could probably do some fancy hand tricks to fool his opponents, so it’s too bad that he can’t keep his ambidextrous abilities under wraps! Maybe being dominant with both his right and left hands could help out in the case of an injury.
8. His Branding And His Artistic Nature
When he was growing up, James loved to go to art classes in school. In fact, he has quite an interesting design aesthetic. This definitely came in handy when he was creating his own line of athletic shoes. James teamed up with Nike back when the young athlete was just 18 years old. Nike gave James about $90 million to endorse their products and be the new face of their basketball merchandise. In 2003, the Nike Air Zoom Generation shoe was released, followed by the Zoom LeBron II, III, IV, and V. In 2008, the name was changed to Air Max LeBron VI, which extended through 8. 2011 saw the release of the LeBron 9, and nowadays people can buy the LeBron 13. It is a colorful fusion of James’ own artistic sensibilities as well as the design aesthetics and contemporary trends of today. They’re a little like Pokémon …you gotta catch ‘em all!
7. He’s Besties with Jay-Z
Well, maybe they don’t call themselves best friends forever, but James and rapper Jay-Z have a tight bond that has stood the test of time. Selfies and snapshots of James and Jay-Z feature the two men and their families, and they often refer to each other as “La Familia.” That’s pretty sweet. If you pay attention to news media outlets then you might come across some LeBron James – Jay-Z news from time to time. Of course, there is always that annoying headline that James is trying to snatch Jay-Z’s wife Beyoncé away from him. However, these are just nasty rumors spread by people who have nothing better to do. There was a moment after a seriously heated game when James quoted a Jay-Z lyric, saying “If I shoot you, then I’m brainless. If you shoot me, you’re famous. What am I to do?” It was James’ response to an on-court argument.
6. He Was The First African-American On Vogue
Yes, that’s right. Not a cover girl, a cover boy, and he made history while doing it. After all, breaking records and making history is basically what LeBron James is paid to do. James was featured on the front cover of Vogue magazine, not exactly a publication marketed towards athletes or men, but still a cool accomplishment. James was also the first African-American to be featured on the cover of Vogue. Now, James was not pictured on the cover alone, he was paired with Gisele Bundchen and the two were part of a “best sports bodies” issue. That’s pretty accurate, as at least nobody can deny that they both have amazing bodies. Yet, of course, there was some backlash from some people in the community. Those who were racially aware said that the photo was “racially insensitive” because it featured Gisele looking dainty and beautiful and LeBron in full on monster mode. What do you think?
5. What He Does Off The Court
You do not have to be an avid sports fan to know about LeBron James. Heck, you barely even need to know what basketball is to know who LeBron James is! He is one of the most popular and recognized athletes in the entire world, and his fame has transcended the sports world to include movies, popular culture, and much more. Besides appearing on the front cover of Vogue magazine, James was also a guest star on Saturday Night Live and he made a cameo appearance in the film Trainwreck. He has hosted award shows (the ESPY Awards) and there are several documentaries dedicated to his life and background story. James has undoubtedly appeared in countless commercials and advertisements, and he is even the subject of some books. He makes appearances in tabloids, gossip magazines, and reputable news websites and publications. Needless to say, you can’t escape King James.
4. He’s The 3rd Highest Earning Sports Spokesperson
Just walk into any store and LeBron James has probably endorsed it at some point in his professional basketball career. Some of the products and services that he has served as a spokesman for include Samsung, Dunkin’ Donuts, Coca-Cola, and State Farm. He, of course, is one of the most popular faces of the Nike brand, although Adidas and Reebok both scrambled to get him to endorse their products as well. When you sum up the money that James makes from his NBA career and add it to the money he earned from his endorsement deals, you will quickly see how he is one of the highest-paid athletes. He is the third highest-earning sports spokesman right after Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. In 2013, James was elected as the National Basketball Players Association Vice President. How on earth does he find time for all of these business deals and partnerships?
3. He Speaks up About Controversy
Some athletes would rather just focus on their sport and leave it at that, but not LeBron James. With his LeBron James Family Foundation, he is serving as a loud voice for underprivileged and disadvantaged single moms and their kids. He also has spoken out about other current and popular issues such as the War in Darfur, the Black Lives Matter movement and the Trayvon Martin case. If that wasn’t enough, James was also a proud and generous donor to the Barack Obama campaign in 2008. In 2015, James formed a partnership with the University of Akron to build up a scholarship fund to give to over 2,000 students starting in 2021. That can’t come soon enough, especially considering that so many young people can’t get the education they want and deserve because of financial constraints. Clearly, there are many causes that are near and dear to James’ heart, and he uses his Foundation to make a positive difference.
2. He Gets Pumped Up From The Godfather
How else would a world-renowned athlete gear up for a big game against lofty opponents? LeBron James has admitted that he watches The Godfather repeatedly, and who is going to argue with the results? The postseason is a great time for James to unwind a bit more and watch multiple viewings of The Godfather, and he took a moment to use some Godfather wisdom for his response to a recent piece of NBA news. Kevin Durant shocked fans and players when he decided to sign to the Golden State Warriors. James took it upon himself to post a funeral scene from The Godfather on his social media account. Many people read between the lines to determine just what James was trying to say about that.
1. The Role Of Video Games In His Intelligence
LeBron James may not have attended college or university, but that does not mean that his brain is just a lump of rocks. In fact, the athlete is quite intelligent and he has a certain way of thinking that intrigues a lot of people. Back when James would play video games with his buddies, he would memorize the button combinations and joystick movements so that he could destroy his friends every time they played. This pathology-rooted mindset continued to carry James through his teen years and beyond, even into the NBA. His manner of thinking has helped him to work on strategic plays and maneuvers with his coaches and teammates, and that collaboration has made all the difference in games. Other players need to beware when James is watching because he will take note of their movements and tics and use them to develop strategies and plays that will blow them out of the water.