Ever since LeBron James entered the league in 2003, he has become the face of the NBA. He impressed in his rookie season, scoring an impressive 25 points in his very first game, before becoming the youngest player to drop 40 when he was just 19. He picked up the Rookie of the Year award with a stat line that most seasoned pros would be content with, averaging 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists. From here LeBron shot to stardom by putting the entire Cleveland team on his back and turning them into title contenders, joining Miami and helping them win back-to-back championships, faltering to the Spurs and finally returning to Cleveland for what will be a fascinating season, as LeBron, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving become the latest Big 3 to try to put together a title run.
Since LeBron entered the league we have seen a plethora of talent come in such as Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose and Steph Curry, we have seen the likes of Shaq, T-Mac and Jason Kidd retire, the Lakers and Celtics go from the two best teams in the league to two of the worst and the Spurs have…well, the Spurs haven’t changed much. Regardless of what is happening around the NBA, the main focus has always been on LeBron. This could be a staggering stat line, monstrous dunk, MVP conversation or the endless comparisons with Kobe and Jordan. It is not always positive with LeBron however, as he inevitably faces a lot of criticism and is hated by many. Many have the opinion that he disappears on the big stage, makes poor end of game decisions, plays inconsistently, has an inability to play with certain players and of course he is not even close to Kobe or Jordan. Even when there isn’t a headline or conversation surrounding LeBron, he is never far from the media's attention, with his receding hairline and weight loss being a hot topic of late.
With all this focus and attention it is inevitable that the world knows a lot about this global superstar, but here are 15 interesting facts which you may not have heard before.
15 He owns part of Liverpool F.C
In 2011, LeBron cut a deal with the U.S. owners of Liverpool F.C, Fenway Sports Group, and he became a minority shareholder. He was drawn to Liverpool due to the amount of titles they have won over the years and he wanted to use his global reach to expand the brand. Judged on Liverpool’s performances this season, they could do with a character like LeBron in their ranks and it is much more likely that he will be lifting a trophy before they do.
14 He missed the player introductions on a return to Cleveland in 2011
In the Miami days when Cleveland saw LeBron as a traitor, he angered the Cavs crowd further by missing the pre game introductions. LeBron stated that he was using the restroom, but many saw it as an excuse so that he did not have to experience the boos which rang through the Quicken Loans Arena. Many also saw it as a lack of respect from James, who had never missed a pre game introduction before. James appeared under the cover of darkness and would rack up a triple-double, but it would be Cleveland who had the last laugh in that game, as they beat Miami by 12.
13 He missed over half of the 4th grade
James attended just 82 of 160 days in the fourth grade, but not due to ill health. Now before you use this as an opportunity to bash Lebron, listen to the reason. When his mother, Gloria James, spent a week in jail for petty crimes, he was too embarrassed to face school and decided to stay at home instead. Fortunately for the Cavs, his attendance for games is much higher. So was his fifth grade attendance, as he carried a perfect attendance record that year.
12 He has a secret handshake with Jay-Z
LeBron may have NBA titles and MVP awards, he has appeared on the front cover of all the major sports magazines and is one of the most recognizable celebrities around the world, but having a secret handshake with Jay-Z is what let him know that he really made it. After a dominant performance against the Nets, where LeBron scored the final 17 points, he was seen performing a rather elaborate handshake with the rapper. Jealous much?
11 He had to perform 10 pushups each time he cursed in high school
At St. Vincent-St. Mary, anytime that a young LeBron was caught cursing, his high school coach would make him perform 10 pushups. Fast forward to today, LeBron is well spoken and polite in front of the cameras, so the coach clearly helped him prepare for this side of the game as well nurture his talent. Judging by LeBron’s stature, he must have had quite a foul mouth on him.
10 He married his high school sweetheart and has 3 kids
After 12 years together, LeBron married his high school sweetheart Savannah in 2013, with Jay-Z and Beyonce playing at the reception. The couple have two sons, Bryce and LeBron Jr, and Savannah recently gave birth to a daughter, Zhuri. James does not want his sons playing football, but Bryce is content on playing soccer whilst LeBron Jr. appears to be following his father’s footsteps and is focused on basketball. The scouts surely have him on their radar already.
9 He was a successful football player in high school
LeBron was clearly destined to be a professional athlete; if basketball never worked out then he may have had a career in football. In his sophomore year at high school, James won all-state honours as a wide receiver. In the same year, he also became the first sophomore to be named “Mr. Basketball” for Ohio. James was even offered a scholarship by the wide receivers coach for Notre Dame, but by this point LeBron had set his sights on the NBA. During the 2011 NBA lockout, James joked that he was ready to try out for an NFL team and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll had a jersey prepared for him. Despite hailing from Cleveland Browns territory, Lebron is an avid fan of the Dallas Cowboys. James recently revealed that he does not want his sons playing football due to safety concerns.
8 His first dunk came in a Student vs. Teacher game in 8th grade
When LeBron was at Riedinger Middle School in Akron, Ohio, he threw down what would be the first of many dunks. What made it that little bit sweeter was the fact that it came during a student versus teacher game, so you can imagine the reaction the teachers had when a 13-year-old James soared for a dunk on a fast break. He is now one of the premier dunkers in the league, putting countless defenders on posters and dazzling crowds with fast break dunks and alley-oops.
7 He tried to declare for the NBA after his junior year
Before the “one and done” rule was introduced in 2006, the rule was that players had to graduate from high school before declaring for the draft. LeBron felt that he was ready for the NBA after just his junior year, and he petitioned to enter. The league refused, and LeBron played another season at St. Vincent-St. Mary. He was already a star and household name by this point, and was selected by the Cavs with the first pick in the 2003 draft.
6 He is left handed but shoots with his right hand
LeBron both writes and eats with his left hand, but when it comes to shooting, he prefers his right. On the court, his ambidexterity does not give him the edge that it gave to players like Steve Nash and Larry Bird, who were near impossible to guard as they had no favoured side. LeBron is still more than capable of going left or right and finishing at the ring or with a jumpshot, but earlier in his career people used to push him to his (on court) weaker left.
5 He is the youngest to score 2,000 points in a season
At just 21 years old, LeBron scored over 2,000 points in the 2004-05 season. With many claiming that LeBron should have gone to college to develop his game, LeBron demonstrated that he already had the tools to become a prolific scorer in the league and helped Cleveland to their first winning season in five years. He has now achieved this feat nine times in his career, joining the likes of Jordan, Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabber. The only seasons in which he has not achieved 2,000 points are his rookie year, and the lockout shortened 2011-12 campaign. Karl Malone leads the pack, scoring 2,000 points in 12 seasons.
4 He can cover the court in just 9 strides
We all know that LeBron is practically unstoppable in the open court, and a large reason why he appears like a freight train on a fast break is that it only takes him nine strides from hoop to hoop. This generates an enormous amount of force heading towards the basket, which is why many defenders simply let him go rather than try to derail him. For the average NBA player it takes 13 strides to cover the court, which is still an impressive feat and demonstrates just how athletic NBA players are.
3 He is the youngest to reach the 20,000 point mile-stone
In a game against the Warriors in 2013, LeBron hit a jumpshot to give him an impressive 20,001 points at the age of just 28 years and 17 days. This stripped Kobe of the record, who was 29 years and 122 days old when he reached 20,000. This should not come as too much of a surprise, as LeBron was the youngest to reach every thousand-point milestone, from 1,000 through to this current record. LeBron may have a slight advantage coming straight from high school, but as did the likes of T-Mac, Garnett and of course Kobe. Nevertheless, there are just 40 other NBA players in the 20,000 club, and by joining at such a young age it will be interesting to see where LeBron ranks in the all-time scoring list in a few years, with Kobe set to surpass Jordan this season.
2 "The Decision" served a greater cause
Although "The Decision" may have been painful to watch and gained LeBron a lot of haters, the show served a greater cause than announcing "The Chosen One" was leaving Cleveland. All of the proceeds from the show went to a good cause, with around $2 million going to the Boys and Girls Club of America and half a million going to clubs in Northeast Ohio. "The Decision" was widely criticized by everyone outside of Miami and may have damaged LeBron's reputation, but the Heat were not the only ones to benefit from the show.
1 He had a $90 million contract with Nike before playing his first NBA game
LeBron was such a huge sensation that he was already a household name around the world before he had played his first minute of NBA basketball. The high school sensation was followed closely by millions in his last year of high school, and Nike clearly saw something special in the 18-year-old and offered him a $90 million contract before his first game. LeBron is one of the most marketable athletes around the world, and he has not let Nike down in his career. In addition to the shoe deal, he also appeared on the cover of SLAM, Sports Illustrated and ESPN before his first game.