LeBron James; you either love him or hate him. There seems to be no in between. Some people just can’t stand his confidence. Others take issue with his many advertising deals or the fact that he went to Miami and won a few championships. He also takes shots for not being a Michael Jordan clone, or for not driving to the basket enough, or for losing a few Finals. The laundry list of LeBron complaints seems to go on and on. Perhaps one of the funniest LeBron-related debates has to do with his mysterious hairline. In some photos it seems like he’s going bald, but in others King James is pictured sporting a seemingly healthy head of hair.
Conspiracies involving his pump faking hairline aside, the media has so far been unable to dig up any dirt on LeBron. By all accounts, James is a an upstanding citizen. He’s smart, personable and– unlike the infinitely more popular NBA star Shaquille O’Neal– James has the ability to modulate the tone of his voice when he speaks. According to former coaches and teammates, he has a near-photographic memory. Plus, he’s got no DUIs, no incidences of domestic abuse, no drug problems that anyone knows about. He’s a family man. Oh, and about that family– you might think a guy like LeBron James would pick a model to be his wife, but that’s not the case. James married his high school sweetheart Savannah Brinson in 2013; they met each other when they were 16 years old.
The fact that LeBron James is a decent human being is nice to know, but having a squeaky clean personal life isn’t enough to please the fans. In order to be an NBA star, you need to put up the numbers. LeBron’s detractors say that he’s overrated, but a look at his stats reveals that this isn’t the case at all. Here are 10 reasons why all of LeBron’s haters should bow down and recognize King James’s divine right to rule over the NBA.
10. He can play all 5 positions on the floor
LeBron can run the offense like a point guard, nail fade-away 3-pointers, drive to the basket from the perimeter like a small forward, maneuver in the paint like a power forward and defend NBA giants like a center. Few players in NBA history can match LeBron’s multidimensional abilities. His Swiss Army knife versatility places LeBron James in the same category as Wilt Chamberlain, John Havlicek, Scottie Pippen, Kevin Garnett and Magic Johnson, which is why LeBron was dubbed “1-through-5” by Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. Though it may not be as catchy as his self-awarded epithet King James, Spoelstra’s nickname for James does suggest why he is so hard to defend on the court. He can do anything.
9. He’s a hard worker
Another reason to give up the LeBron hate is that criticism only seems to makes him stronger. The worse things people say, the more James’s resolve seems to grow. Following a NBA Finals loss to the Mavericks, James haters had a field day. So, LeBron went to work. With Hakeem Olajuwon’s help, LeBron made dramatic upgrades to his post-game. His efforts not only paid off in terms of earning his first championship victory the following year, his metamorphosis made a deep impression on NBA experts. Kirk Goldsberry called LeBron’s vast improvement “one of the greatest and most important transformations in recent sports history.”
8. He’s accumulated Jordan-esque scoring stats
Most people don’t think of LeBron as a monster points-scorer along the lines of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Yet, if James stays healthy, at his current pace, he will surpass Abdul-Jabar to become the NBA’s all-time scoring leader in 2023– an impressive statistic, especially given James’s “spread the ball around” teamwork-focused style of play. Some say that James has the tendency to throw up a lot of bricks, but a look at the actual numbers reveals some remarkable statistics. His career field goal percentage (.496) is only one tick behind MJ’s .497. Perhaps even more impressive is that the King’s career three point percentage is .342. Jordan’s was .327.
7. He’s fun to watch
A basketball player like LeBron James comes along only once a decade, (if you’re lucky) and SportsCenter has adjusted its highlight reel accordingly. During the NBA season it seems like roughly a quarter of the replays feature LeBron. On the defensive end, James is capable of snatching a layup out of thin air– but he often opts to simply send it flying the other direction by slapping the ball against the backboard. But let’s not forget about LeBron’s offensive highlights. His dominant, aggressive dunking style is known for making defenders topple over, but he is also capable of finesse: no-look passes delivered from over the head or from behind the back often bring fans to their feet.
6. He’s the King of Basketball
Heavy hangs the head that wears the crown. LeBron notoriously dubbed himself “King James” before he even stepped on an NBA court, back in 2003. Opting to give himself that nickname guaranteed that James would receive automatic unfavorable comparisons to the greats after every missed opportunity. No matter what LeBron achieves, it seems, it’s never quite good enough. But if LeBron isn’t fit to be the king, who is? The NBA’s other perennial superstar, Kobe Bryant, has more championship rings– but he also had the fortune of playing on superstar teams for the bulk of his career. That’s why Kobe has only one MVP award and LeBron has four. When it comes to individual play, LeBron really is the king.
5. Awesome career playoff stats
A common criticism about LeBron James is that he is no good in the playoffs. Yet, he averages 28.2 points a game– that’s no.3 all-time, behind the likes of Jerry West and Michael Jordan. Other key statistics are impressive too: he averages 6.7 assists and 8.7 rebounds during the playoffs. Those stats suggest that whenever LeBron steps onto the court during the Finals, there is a high chance of him reeling in a 30-10-5– 30 points, 10 boards and 5 assists. These numbers are even more impressive, if you take into consideration that James usually plays small forward and entered the NBA as a point guard.
4. 5 straight NBA Finals appearances
LeBron James has starred in five straight NBA Finals championship games, a feat matched only by Bill Russell and a few other dynasty era Boston Celtics players. The Celtics dominated the game back in the 1960s, but basketball has come a long way since then. The sheer number of new teams that have cropped up over the years as well as the increase in parity across the league has made it impossible for anyone except for LeBron to reach five straight Finals appearances. Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant both managed only three consecutive appearances on two separate occasions.
3. He came back to Cleveland
For LeBron, there is more to basketball than just making money and winning trophies. For King James, the game of basketball is also about representing his hometown and setting an example. Though he switched teams to achieve his personal goal of winning the Finals, LeBron showed loyalty to his home state by opting to return to Cleveland. “I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling,” LeBron said about his four-year stint with the Heat and subsequent return to the Cavaliers. Lebron’s decision to return home not only reflects his willingness to put himself in challenging situations, it also shows his dedication to bringing a championship trophy to Ohio.
2. He took a pay cut to win in Miami
Even though he is the best individual player in the league and has been for many years, people still hate on LeBron James because he makes a fat salary (well duh, the best player in the world is supposed to make the fattest salary!). If anything, LeBron is underpaid when compared to his NBA peers. James stands to make about $20 million dollars in 2015, roughly the same amount as Chicago’s Derrick Rose and Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant. Kobe Bryant, on the other hand, stands to reel in almost $25 million. Another fact that speaks to LeBron’s “money isn’t everything” attitude is that he actually accepted a lesser salary for a chance to win championships with the Heat. He made about $15 million per year while in Miami.
1. He is an outstanding teammate
LeBron is well known for giving out gifts to his teammates– and not only in the form of behind-the-back assists. James is famous for throwing parties and giving out goodies, like Apple Watches and other surprise presents. He even brings in his personal barber and pays for his teammates’ haircuts from time to time. The point of all the friendliness is to facilitate a feeling of camaraderie. James Jones had this to say about the NBA star: “‘Bron is the best teammate you can ask for, because on the court he’s going to give you everything and off the court he’s always going to be considerate and do whatever he can to show his gratitude.”
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