Basketball legend LeBron James started his life as the living embodiment of the popular Drake song “Started From The Bottom.” He was just a normal kid living in Akron, Ohio, dreaming of making it big in basketball.
Now, with the Los Angeles Lakers playing in the Disney World “bubble,” James is making another statement in his 17th year in the league. Despite this, many people forget how he got here in the first place.
Growing up, James’ father was not really supportive and money was not readily available. He went to high school at St. Vincent-St. Mary in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, and from there the national sports media started to show him attention. He led his high school team to three state championships and was known as “Mr. Basketball” in his area for those three successful years.
James was determined when it came to basketball. He wanted to be like one of his idols, the late Kobe Bryant. In 2003, he entered the draft alongside Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony, getting drafted to the Cleveland Cavaliers as the first pick.
For the next seven years, James was the star player for Cleveland. He earned Rookie of the Year, his first All-Star appearance in his second year and also set a franchise record in points scored in a game, with 56 points against the Toronto Raptors on March 20, 2005.
One of James’ most memorable moments in his first stint with the Cavaliers came in the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals against the Detroit Pistons. With the series tied 2-2, James scored 48 points in game five, winning the game for his team. The Cavaliers made their first NBA Finals appearance that same year.
During the 2010 offseason, James made the grand decision of taking his talents to South Beach to play alongside Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat.
James made the NBA Finals his first year with the Heat, but fell short of the NBA championship. People began to doubt James’s greatness, but then in 2012 and 2013, he won back-to-back titles for the Heat.
Unfortunately for James, the Heat lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals in 2014, preventing a three-peat for James and the Heat. Following the loss, James went back home to Cleveland in the offseason, and the public opinions on James and his nickname “The King” were changed drastically.
In James’ first season back in Cleveland, he made it to the finals again, this time against the Golden State Warriors. Cleveland lost that season, but something miraculous happened in the 2016 NBA finals.
Down 3-1 in the series, James channeled his inner Michael Jordan and almost averaged a 30-point triple-double in the Warriors series to help tie the series at 3-3.
In game seven, James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to victory. His historical chase down block on Andre Igoudala and Kyrie Irving’s three-point dagger on Stephen Curry helped the Cavaliers win their first NBA championship. It was a great moment in sports history, especially for Cleveland when James poured out all of his emotions after the game.
After Irving left the Cavaliers in 2017, coupled with Kevin Durant joining Golden State for a couple of years, the road grew rocky.
James averaged a 35-point triple-double in the 2018 finals, but it was not nearly enough as they would lose the series in five games. A change of scenery was needed, and James knew where he needed to go.
In the summer of 2018, James decided he was going to play for the Los Angeles Lakers alongside Anthony Davis, and eventually Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard, Javale McGee and more for his next title. James suffered injuries his first season with the Lakers, and the team ultimately missed the playoffs.
For this current season, James is playing as well as he was in high school and his glory years in Cleveland and Miami.
After passing Bryant for 3rd in all-time scoring against the Philadelphia 76ers on Jan. 25, Bryant tragically passed away the next day. This made James find a whole new purpose to reaching his ultimate goal.
Then, in the middle of the 2020 season, the world was struck by the COVID-19 pandemic, causing the NBA season to be shut down for four months. During the shut down, James kept practicing regardless, and was ready for the upcoming seeding games once the season started up again.
James almost averaged a 24-point triple-double in the Disney World “bubble,” still putting up impressive numbers at 35-years-old. In the first round of the playoffs against Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers, James was on an unstoppable mission. James and the Lakers beat the Blazers in five games.
Next up in the Lakers’ playoff run was the Houston Rockets. James was shooting at a remarkable level, leading his team to success and spreading the wealth to teammate Markieff Morris, who had also been shooting very well. This also extended to Anthony Davis, who had been a reliable player against the small-ball lineup of the Rockets.
The Lakers are currently up against Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals. If they can get through the Nuggets, next is either a familiar foe, the Boston Celtics, or James’ former team, the Miami Heat, in the NBA Finals.
Ben Petruk, a sophomore journalism major, recognizes James for not only his athletic skill but his personal and social skills as well.
“LeBron [James] is not only an amazing player, but he is also an amazing role model,” Petruk said. “He had his flaws on and off the court throughout his career, but he was able to use that to build himself into an all-time great player, and person as well.”
Jack Barteck, a junior television and digital media major, does not like the hate people bring upon James and wishes people would respect more of his greatness in the NBA.
“I think that sometimes, LeBron [James] falls victim to the phenomenon of people hating things that are popular,” Barteck said. “The standard that he is held to is unlike any other athlete, currently or maybe ever. It’s a shame that he is looked at this way because when his career is over, people will look back and wish they appreciated his greatness more while it was taking place.”
No matter what, James is built for causing havoc in the NBA playoffs. Even as he gets older, James has a great chance to complete his mission once again. All he has to do is connect back to his roots.