From the moment he burst onto the scene at St. Vincent-St. Mary's high school in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, LeBron James has been dubbed "The Chosen One". Selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the number one pick of the 2003 NBA Draft, James was taken to turn around his city's franchise. The hype surrounding James was unheard of for his time, as the athlete was one of the first superstars to develop throughout the social media era of the world. Let's take a look through the career of one of the greatest basketball players to ever play the game.
First stint in Cleveland
The Rookie of the Year
LeBron got off to a hot start averaging 20.9 points, 5.9 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game. These numbers were not good enough to lead the Cavaliers to the playoffs, but James turned heads all year long taking home Rookie of the Year.
The emergence of a superstar
Even with great first and second seasons, you could consider this LeBron's first year of sheer dominance. The King averaged a career-high 31.4 points per game to go along with seven rebounds and 6.6 assists. He carried the Cavaliers to the playoffs (lost to the Detroit Pistons in the second round) and finished second in the leagues' Most Valuable Player voting. James has yet to miss the playoffs since 2006.
The 2007 NBA Playoffs beheld one of the ultimate LeBron James career moments. Facing the veteran Pistons for the second year in a row, this time the stage was the Eastern Conference Finals. The Cavs went down 2-0 to start the series but took care of business at home tying the series 2-2. In a crucial Game 5 on the road, LeBron exploded for 48 points, nine rebounds and seven assists securing the win for Cleveland and altering the momentum of the series. The Cavs won the next two games and James made his first NBA Finals appearance. Matched up with an experienced San Antonio Spurs team with the likes of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, they swept the Cavaliers in four games.
In the 2007-08 season, LeBron responded to The Finals loss with the first scoring title of his career averaging 30 points per game. The Cavaliers advanced to the second round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs but were eliminated by the Boston Celtics' new 'Big 3' of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. The Celtics would go on to win The Finals that year.
The league's back-to-back Most Valuable Player
In 2008-09, he led the Cavs in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals and was rewarded with his first Most Valuable Player award. James also finished second for the Defensive Player of the Year award and earned his first of five All-Defensive Team honors.
The 2009 playoffs were textbook in LeBron carrying his team. He swept the Pistons and the Atlanta Hawks, facing off against Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals. He dropped 49 points in a Game 1 loss, followed by a game-winning shot in Game 2. The Cavs lost the next two games and ulitmately lost the series in six games. This is when rumors begun of The King's departure from Cleveland.
James won his second consecutive Most Valuable Player award. He brought the Cavaliers to the second round of the playoffs but was eliminated yet again by the Celtics. At the conclusion of the game, LeBron ripped his Cavaliers jersey off in the tunnel suggesting he could be signing elsewhere as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.
Taking his talents to South Beach
"The Decision" was an hour and 15 minute television special on ESPN held to announce who LeBron would sign with for the following season(s). This was unlike anything anyone has ever seen in sports and made James one of the most disliked athletes in sports history at the time. At the conclusion of the television special, James announced he would take his "talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat." Just days later, the Heat signed all-star forward Chris Bosh, forming their own 'Big 3' along with Dwyane Wade.
The Heat struggled to start the season but eventually turned it around. James led Miami to the NBA Finals, taking out his rival Celtics and the 2011 MVP Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls in five games each. The Heat flirted with a championship in their first season with their 'Big 3' but were defeated by Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks in six games. Despite the loss, this begun LeBron's total domination of the Eastern Conference as he has reached the NBA Finals every year following.
Back-to-back NBA Championships
After a year of heavy criticism in 2011, James and the Heat responded the best way possible in 2012. He earned his third MVP award and the Heat took No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Defeating the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers in the first two rounds, James was matched up with the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals again. Facing elimination down 3-2, he put on one of his best performances of his career in Game 6 posting 45 points, 15 rebounds and five assists in Boston. The Heat went on to win Game 7 at home and advanced to their second consecutive Finals.
They took on the young Oklahoma City Thunder loaded with three future NBA MVP's in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. The Heat took care of business in five games as LeBron earned his first NBA Championship and Finals MVP.
In 2013, James was named MVP and the Heat reached The Finals again. LeBron got his chance to take revenge on the Spurs' veterans who swept him in The Finals earlier in his career and he did just that. Scoring 37 points in Game 7, the Heat defeated the Spurs and LeBron won his second consecutive Finals MVP.
The two teams faced off in The Finals again in 2014, but Spurs' veterans and young star forward Kawhi Leonard won the third matchup, defeating the Heat in five games. James entered the following offseason as an unrestricted free agent after opting out of the final year of his contract with Miami.
The return to Cleveland
LeBron had promised the city of Cleveland a championship and he returned home to fulfill that promise. He and all-star forward Kevin Love signed with the Cavs, joining their young star guard Kyrie Irving. The first year together, the Cavaliers reached the NBA Finals but fell to the Golden State Warriors in six games. With Irving and Love hurt for the majority of the series, James averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists. His performance nearly earned him Finals MVP despite losing the championship.
Completing his promise
The 2015-16 season was a turning point in James' legacy. LeBron brought the Cavs back to The Finals and was tasked with dethroning the Warriors in their record breaking 79-win season. Trailing 3-1, LeBron posted back-to-back 41 point games to put the Cavaliers back in the series. In Game 7 on the road, James had a triple-double with 27 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. Summarized by LeBron's block and Irving hitting one of the greatest shots in NBA history, the city of Cleveland got the championship The King promised them. James led both teams in points, assists, rebounds, steals and blocks earning a unanimous Finals MVP selection.
Cleveland vs. Golden State, parts three and four
In the 2016 offseason, Kevin Durant joined the already loaded Warriors making them the heavy favorites to win the NBA Finals. James led the Cavaliers to The Finals again, passing Michael Jordan as the all-time postseason scoring leader on his way there. Durant, Stephen Curry and the Warriors proved to be too much to handle, defeating the Cavs in five games. LeBron averaged 33.6 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists becoming the first player to average a triple-double in The Finals.
In the 2017 offseason, LeBron's understudy Irving requested a trade from the Cavaliers. They traded their second superstar to Boston in return for players that did not work out in Cleveland's favor. After overhauling the roster at the trade deadline, the Cavs struggled, earning the four seed in the East. A 33 year-old LeBron willed the Cavaliers to The Finals for his eighth straight year after playing a career-high 82 games and a league-high 36.9 mintues per game in the regular seson. The Cavs were no match for the Warriors again, this time getting swept in four games.
The move to Los Angeles
LeBron entered the 2018 offseason as an unrestricted free agent. He elected to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers, accepting the challenge of playing with a young, promising team in the Western Conference. If The King finds success in LA, he could solidify himself as the greatest player of all-time.