You know LeBron James, the best basketball player of his generation and the dominating face of the NBA. But you don’t know some of his off-court antics, like when he wanted to drop out of high school or the controversy surrounding his first “Decision” (and no, we’re not talking about the time that he took his talents to South Beach). This list takes a look at the 15 things that you didn’t know about King James. We’re not going to list his crazy stats, like the fact he’s the youngest player to 28,000 points or that he has three kids named LeBron, Bryce Maximus and Zhuri.
This list doesn’t regurgitate all of LeBron’s huge contracts or his many endorsement deals that makes him the highest paid basketball players and one of the most influential athletes of our time. Instead, this list lays out some of the craziest things that are part of LeBron’s past, and there’s a good chance that you’ve never heard about them before.
Sure, LeBron has hosted SNL, the ESPY’s and has appeared in Entourage and had a major role in Trainwreck. But none of those things appear on the following list. No matter if you love LeBron, or hate him with all your being, this list will load up ammunition for each side as we look at some of the things LeBron probably wants to cover up and never speak of again. Here are the top 15 things you didn’t know about the NBA’s best player – LeBron James.
Warning: you may learn some things that will make you appreciate LeBron more when you see what he had to deal with as a child. There are also things that may make you hate the formerly spoiled teen superstar.
16 LeBron tried to drop out of high school
LeBron really wanted to declare for the 2002 NBA draft after his junior year of high school (below you’ll read about how good he was during those first three years of high school). The crazy thing is that James probably would have still been the No. 1 pick of the draft (well maybe the second pick because the Houston Rockets selected Yao Ming first overall that year).
But James unsuccessfully petitioned for an adjustment to the NBA’s draft eligibility rules that required players to have graduated from high school. The fact James was only 17 didn’t matter, the NBA just wanted to make sure James had his degree in hand before joining the ranks of the professionals. If you ask us, this was a huge benefit for James. He needed that extra year playing amateur basketball before taking on the role as the NBA’s most scrutinized, watched and followed basketball player.
15 LeBron smoked weed
After unsuccessfully petitioning for his spot in the pros, LeBron went back for his final year of high school. It was reported that LeBron used marijuana to help cope with the stress that resulted from the constant media attention. So, maybe it was a good thing LeBron got one more year in school before heading to the media circus that is the NBA.
Where was this reported and how can we trust this is accurate? Well, this news was discovered from a section of a book that was written by James himself (and co-authored by Buzz Bissinger). In the book, James said that he media attention he and his teammates received was difficult to handle. You shouldn’t blame him for those days. James received more attention than any high school athlete ever. So, he rightfully deserved some slack from his actions.
14 LeBron almost gets kicked out of high school sports (the first time)
Speaking of negative actions. LeBron James ran into some trouble multiple times during his senior year of high school. Luckily, nothing ever stuck and he transitioned into the NBA smoothly. But no one would have guessed the transition would have been so smooth with how his senior year began. In a very questionable move, LeBron’s mom gifted him a Hummer H2. How did she get the money for the very expensive gift? Well, she took a loan and leveraged that loan off of the money she would get from LeBron’s expected big contract once he got to the pros.
This was a very questionable move and to be honest, isn’t a fair thing to do to a teenager. It shouldn’t matter that LeBron was a safe-bet to be a millionaire. That’s just more pressure to add to a kid that has too much pressure placed on him to begin with. Let’s be real, he was getting compared to Michael Jordan long before this point. Getting a Hummer he’ll need to pay off was just adding fuel to the fire.
13 LeBron loses his high school sports eligibility
Although the OHSAA tried to suspend LeBron for receiving the Hummer, the high school sports governing body in Ohio couldn’t blame James for his mom’s sketchy actions. The story sure did raise some red flags for LeBron, but it never caused him to miss any playing time. But that would happen soon enough. Actually it would happen just days after a decision was reached that did not discipline James for getting a $50,000 vehicle.
Originally, LeBron was stripped of his remaining high school eligibility back in 2003 because he accepted two sports jerseys from a Cleveland clothing store. So it seems fine that his mom got him a car, but a couple of jerseys gets him to lose his eligibility. Upon appeal, James was reinstated but he was suspended for two games and his team was given their only loss of the year because of the scandal. Don’t worry though, LeBron will soon be making millions.
12 LeBron played at the University of Akron
Although LeBron never played in the NCAA, he got a taste for the collegiate courts as he often was playing at the University of Akron’s Rhodes Arena. While he was a sophomore, the demand to watch James play was insane. It was impossible to satisfy the outrageous ticket demand. Because of this, St. Vincent-St. Mary played some home games at the college arena to fit in all the alumni, fans and NBA scouts (college scouts were also there but they had to know there was no way that James wouldn’t go straight to the NBA).
So although he never suited up as a college athlete, LeBron got to play in a college arena. But it was at Akron, so the stands could only fit barely more than 5,000 spectators. It was more than what his high school gym could manage, but nothing compared to the crowds James was getting ready to play in front of.
11 LeBron starred on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a junior
This was a crazy time in Cleveland. A sports icon was playing just down the street and speculation already began that the struggling Cavs would be poised to select the rising star with the first overall pick in a couple of years. LeBron James was the first high school non-senior to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. He did it as a junior. After that season James became the first junior to win the boys’ basketball Gatorade National Player of the Year award.
The demand in Cleveland for that magazine was huge, but it was nothing like the demand people had for LeBron’s play on the court. He was adamantly followed before he was on the magazine cover and that honor just intensified the scrutiny. No high school kid deserves anything like that but luckily LeBron was built to handle such a crazy type of celebrity for such a young kid.
10 The Ohio-native is a Yankees, Cowboys, and Bulls Fan
Back in 2007, LeBron James really pissed off his supporters in Cleveland. James decided to wear a Yankees hat to a playoff game against the Indians in Cleveland. It caused such an uproar as James was seen on TV proudly represented a team that most of us despise, especially those of us who grew up in Cleveland.
LeBron did gain some of that support back when he showed up during Cleveland’s most recent World Series run as he was seen cheering for the hometown team and wearing the Indians memorabilia. But he still said he’s a Yankees fan. “I’m a supporter,” James said, according to the New York Post. “I’m a supporter of winners. As a kid growing up, I needed inspiration to get out of the situation I was in. I loved the Bulls, Cowboys and loved the Yankees. Those are winning franchises. I liked them because they gave me hope of being a winner. That’s part of the reason I loved those teams but I definitely support what the Indians are doing right now.”
9 LeBron was on fire right out of the gate
In first regular season game, he scored 25 points, which set an NBA record for most points scored by a prep-to-pro player in his NBA debut. Sure, LeBron didn’t get selected to the All-Star game during his rookie season. But he should have. LeBron nearly single-handedly led the Cavs to the postseason (he didn’t, but it was quite the turnaround for a team that previously had the worst record in the NBA). The Cavs had an 18-game improvement compared to their previous season.
However, that rookie season wasn’t bad in terms of personal accolades for the rising superstar. James wasn’t named an All Star and didn’t make the playoffs, but it was obvious the young kid had immense talent. James was named the NBA Rookie of the Year as he finished with a per game average of 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists. He was just the third player in NBA history to post those types of averages during a rookie season.
8 LeBron was the first Cavs player to be league MVP
LeBron James has been named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player four times throughout his career. The first honor came back in 2009, when LeBron became the first Cleveland Cavalier to receive that honor. Here is where we’ll highlight the awesomeness of LeBron’s career (this will be the last his on court individual accomplishments…the remainder of this list deals with risky decisions and a tough, very tough, childhood upbringing).
Since that first MVP, LeBron has won three championships and was the Finals MVP during each one of those championship runs. LeBron has been selected to the All-Star game each season except for when he was a rookie. He was the scoring champion in 2008 and has been part of the All-Defensive First Team five times. Oh, and the AP has named him the athlete of the year twice, as has Sports Illustrated.
7 LeBron’s Decision raises $6 million for charity
If you aren’t a Miami fan, you hated “The Decision.” After some time LeBron even admitted he screwed up as he said that he would have done it differently if he were able to go back and do it all over again. Don’t worry, Clevelanders eventually forgave King James as he brought the city its first professional sports title in 52 years, but there were some hurt feelings back during the time of The Decision.
Tensions were so bad that Clevelanders took to the streets with all of their LeBron memorabilia and burned it. LeBron was the cause of many street fires that night in Cleveland. It’d be interesting to see if his decision or his championship caused more damage to the city of Cleveland. But as bad as the decision was, it raised a lot of money for charity. The broadcast raised $2.5 million for the Boys & Girls Club and another $3.5 million was collected from advertisement revenue and that was donated to other charities.
6 LeBron was recruited by Urban Meyer to play football
You know LeBron as one of the best basketball players to ever play the game. But he could have just as easily gone down as one of the best football receivers in history. Back when LeBron was in high school, Urban Meyer was the wide receivers coach at Notre Dame. Meyer told ESPN that before he even knew who James was, he wanted to offer him a scholarship to play right then. That was after Meyer saw a video of James for the first time.
Meyer was naïve back at that time. So much so that he invited LeBron to come to Notre Dame for a tour. Quickly after the invite, LeBron’s coach told Meyer there was no chance in that happening because the kid is the next Michael Jordan. Well, it looks like he was right.
4 LeBron works with Hakeem Olajuwon, wins back-to-back championships
There was something missing with LeBron James gameplay before he won his first championship with the Heat. Coaches knew it. LeBron definitely knew it. Don’t get thrown off though. LeBron was still the best player in the league before he reached out for help, but he was not a champion before he began learning from all-time great Hakeem Olajuwon.
LeBron realized that he needed to work on his play inside. He had the size and ability to make a mark down low, but his skillset just wasn’t suited for that type of play, until he began training with Olajuwon. James spent days working with the former star and would eventually pass all of his tests. Olajuwon even told the media that when James left the ranch, he was ready. James certainly was ready as he won championships in his next two seasons and brought a championship to Cleveland shortly after.
3 Single mom gives birth at age 16 to LeBron
LeBron’s mom, Gloria Marie James, gave birth to the future king of the NBA at just 16 years old. Gloria, who raised LeBron on her own, gave birth to the future superstar on Dec. 30, 1984. They moved around from some pretty sketchy apartments in Akron, Ohio, which is about 20 minutes away from Cleveland. This was a tough life for young LeBron, but it was part of the reason he is the man who he is today. Living in such rough conditions built LeBron up to the point that he was able to handle more scrutiny than any athlete of his time.
No doubt this sucked at the time, but it’s a safe bet that LeBron wouldn’t trade those days for anything. Those days surely fueled his passion and desire for the game of basketball. And he’s said on multiple occasions that those were the days that showed him that he wanted to be a winner. So as bad as it was at the time, LeBron can now look back on those days a bit more positively.
2 LeBron moves in with youth football coach
As LeBron was living in some rough areas, his mom decided it would be best for him to move in with the family of Frank Walker, who was a local football coach. Good decision. Walker introduced James to basketball when he was nine years old. Who knows what may have happened if LeBron didn’t move in with his youth coach. He could have faded away from sports, or maybe even never learned to appreciate the game of basketball.
Though if you ask us, LeBron was destined to play the game of basketball. Even if he didn’t learn the game when he was nine, he would have been drawn to the sport. Even if he grew up around football, someone would have had the towering teen athlete try his luck in basketball. Maybe he wouldn’t have been drafted right out of high school with that upbringing, but he surely would have eventually been a pro.
1 Controversy surrounding high school decision
LeBron James began getting national recognition during his days playing for an AAU team called the Northeast Ohio Shooting Stars. That’s pretty crazy given the fact that he wasn’t even a teenager at the time. During that time James got huge amounts of attention as the team’s leader. He led what was called the “Fab Four” which included his friends – Sian Cotton, Dru Joyce III and Willie McGee. They all decided to play high school ball together, and chose to attend St. Vincent—St. Mary High School, which was a predominately white private Catholic school.
It was reported that this move created resentment from their neighbors, who expected the group of young athletes to play at their local public high school. But the group of young star basketball players kept their composure and went on to win multiple state championships. The decision must have stung at first, but all of those critics surely came around on LeBron and his high school pals.