Fifteen years ago, a young man from Akron, Ohio was drafted first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron James came to a city and a team in need of a savior and that’s exactly what they got. To understand the King, you have to also understand where he came from, what he has accomplished, and how. LeBron’s career has to be explained in four parts, high school phenom, Cavaliers stint number 1, Miami Heat, and Cavaliers stint number two.
High School Phenom:
LeBron James attended Saint Vincent-Saint Mary’s in Akron, Ohio, where he played and starred in both football and basketball. He has been a star since he picked up a ball when he was a sophomore in high school and was the best wide receiver in the country in his class. James won three state basketball championships in high school. When LBJ was a senior they had to move all of his home games from the gym at STV, to the 5,500 seat Rhoades Arena on the campus of the University of Akron. Also his senior year in the district championship game, they had to move the game from Salem High school to Youngstown State University to accommodate the demand to see the King play. LeBron was an athlete unlike anyone had ever seen. When the Lakers were in town it was not uncommon for Shaq or Kobe to come to Akron to see him play. LeBron was special. Everyone knew it and everyone told him that, but he handled all the attention and everything as well as you could expect an 18-year old too.
Cleveland Cavaliers Stint #1
The Cavaliers won the lottery figuratively and literally the summer of 2003 when their ping pong ball was picked for the number one pick. The hometown kid from Akron was coming home to play for the Cavs, a franchise in need of a mega superstar. The city of Cleveland also was in need of LeBron coming to town to play. When LBJ came to town, the city was a buzz, never has Cleveland ever had the greatest player in any sport and now we had one who was a kid who grew up in front of us. Before LBJ came to the Cavs, the arena was never full, outside of when the Lakers were in town. Now on a Tuesday in February against the Clippers, the arena was filled to capacity. Not only did the attendance in the arena see an explosion, but also the bars and the restaurants around the arena saw an explosion as well. LBJ was saving a city and also shining a bright light on the city for all to see. The nemesis for the Cavs and LBJ were the Detroit Pistons, who were tough and winning NBA Championships when LBJ got into the league. In 2007 James finally broke through, beating the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals, and the series turned on a spectacular performance by LBJ in Game 5. In 16 minutes of game time, Lebron scored 29 of the Cavs final 30 points, including 25 in a row. The Cavs won game 5 109-107 in double overtime on the road, and then came back and dominated the Pistons 98-82 in Game 6 to advance to the Finals. The Cavs then got swept by a great Spurs team in the Finals, but it is worth a listen to go back and see who else accompanied James to the Finals that year. LeBron James at the beginning of his career was a one-man wrecking machine, literally. Almost immediately he was in the conversation with Kobe Bryant as the best player in the league.
In the summer of 2010, LeBron James broke the collective hearts of an entire region of the state of Ohio. He announced on ESPN that he was taking his talents to South Beach, words that will live in infamy in Northeast Ohio. LeBron went to Miami in search of titles that he knew he needed to cement his legacy as one of the greatest to ever play the game of basketball. In Miami, he joined Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to form a superteam. In his four years there they won two NBA titles and he was MVP of both. Then in the summer of 2014, James made the only decision that he could and decided to rejoin the Cavaliers, who had just signed Kevin Love and already had Kyrie Irving on the roster. James admitted he needed the time in Miami to grow and get away, sort of like going to college, which he did not do since he came to the Cavs straight from high school.
Cleveland Cavaliers Stint #2:
When LeBron James came home, the letter he penned is also worth the read if you haven’t read it in a while. He was a different player. James was a leader on and off the court and was able to take guys that have never been to the playoffs to the Finals his first year back. The way LBJ plays in the playoffs since his return is just above anyone else who is playing right now. It’s like he is playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers. The numbers he is putting up are ridiculous. No matter what the team needs, he is able to deliver it to them and the city. When he came back he made no bones about it, he wanted to win and win for the city of Cleveland and Northeast Ohio. His second year back, the Cavs played the Golden State Warriors for the second year in a row in the Finals, his sixth straight Finals appearance. The Cavaliers found themselves down to the Warriors 3-1, but then came storming back to force a Game 7 at Golden State. James came through with what is now affectionately referred to as ” The Block” on a breakaway layup by Andre Iguadola. Then in a tie game, Kyrie Irving buried a three in Steph Curry’s face to win the game and the Finals and bring a Championship home to Cleveland. The city went wild, as evidenced by the 1.5 million people at the parade on a hot humid June day downtown. Every year since he has come back, the Cavs have played in the Finals, and James himself has played in seven in a row.
Presently, James is leading the current roster of Cavaliers through the playoffs and are leading the top seed Raptors 3-0 after struggling through a grueling seven-game series in round one with the Pacers. In the first round, James averaged 40+ points and had multiple triple-double efforts, along with one game-winning three-pointer as the clock expired. This series he has led the Cavs again in all categories, including hitting a fadeaway jumper as time expired to force overtime and then hit a running fade away jumper Saturday night to win Game 3. The Cavs have looked lost most of the regular season, but when you have the greatest player to ever step foot on the planet they are going to the Finals for the fourth time in a row, eighth for LBJ, and ninth overall in his career. LeBron is playing on a different level this year, his fifteenth in the league and maybe his best!