To celebrate the superstars many young athletes look up to, SportsEngine is shining the spotlight on an individual and their journey, including in the formative years that helped propel that person to greatness. We're starting our series with LeBron James. Here are five things you need to know about this 19-time NBA All-Star and four-time MVP.
LeBron James lived with his basketball coach for stability in adolescence.
He was born in Akron, Ohio, on December 30, 1984. His mother, Gloria, was 16 when he was born, and his father was not involved in raising him. According to ESPN, in fourth grade, he and his mother moved at least a half dozen times, and he missed nearly 100 days of school because of their financial challenges. He started to play organized basketball in fifth grade, and one of his youth coaches, Frank Walker, invited LeBron to live with his family for some stability.
Young LeBron first gained a reputation in Akron for football.
According to Bleacher Report, there were stories of a big and athletic kid who could throw right-handed touchdowns when rolling right and left-handed touchdowns when rolling left. In his Varsity debut as a 6-foot-4 freshman, LeBron scored two touchdowns and racked up more than 100 receiving yards — in just one quarter. In his sophomore year, he was named to the All-State football team, and notable football programs like Ohio State, Notre Dame, and USC were interested in him. In two full Varsity seasons at St. Vincent-St. Mary, LeBron scored 27 touchdowns and finished third in school history with 99 catches. One NFL general manager told Bleacher Report that LeBron could have been one of the game's greatest tight ends. "He was a man amongst boys,” Matt McDonald, one of his high school quarterbacks, told Bleacher Report.
LeBron and his AAU team were very successful, and he averaged 21 points and six rebounds for St. Vincent–St. Mary's Varsity basketball team as a freshman.
The team finished the season undefeated and won the state title. He upped his scoring average to 25.2 points as a sophomore, along with 7.2 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 34.8 steals each game, as his team repeated as state champions. He was named Ohio Mr. Basketball and selected to the USA Today All-USA First Team, the first time a sophomore received such an honor. As a junior, he was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the headline "The Chosen One." He bumped up his scoring average to just under 30 points per game, though his team lost in the state championship game, and he became the first junior to be the male basketball Gatorade National Player of the Year.
LeBron finished high school as the only player to win Ohio Mr. Basketball and was selected to the USA Today All-USA First Team for three years.
He repeated as the Gatorade National Player of the Year. He was picked No. 1 overall in the 2003 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers, scoring 25 points in his NBA debut. He finished the season averaging 20.9 points per game, with 5.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists, winning the NBA Rookie of the Year Award. In his second season, LeBron made his first All-Star team, scoring 13 points and grabbing eight rebounds in the All-Star Game. He led the Cavaliers to the 2006 NBA Playoffs, the team's first postseason appearance since 1998. LeBron won his first MVP award in 2009 and his first NBA title in 2012 with the Miami Heat. He's also a two-time Olympic gold medalist.
LeBron has many NBA records, and he's still playing at a high level at 38 years old.
To do that, he maintains a strict exercise regimen and dietary habits, reportedly spending $1.5 million per year for his personal chefs, athletic trainers, and physical therapies, among other things to help his body and mind. On February 7, 2023, LeBron scored his 38,388th career point in a 130–133 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become the all-time leading scorer in NBA history. Off the court, LeBron has invested heavily in his hometown of Akron, including opening an elementary school called "I Promise School" in 2018. His oldest son Bronny was named a McDonald's All-American in January. He also has a younger son named Bryce and a daughter named Zhuri. LeBron is one of the most endorsed athletes in the world, and he's one of the world's richest athletes, with a successful production company and notable investment in companies such as Blaze Pizza and partial ownership in multiple sports franchises, including the Boston Red Sox, Liverpool, and A.C. Milan. LeBron has also been very vocal in his activism, willing to speak on racial inequality and police shootings. "I don’t live my life trying to gain recognition for anything,” LeBron told NBA.com. “You do what’s right, you call out what’s wrong, and you go from there.”