James officially signed with the Heat on July 10, 2010 through a sign-and-trade deal which sent two second and two first round draft picks to the Cavaliers and gave the team the option to swap first round picks with the Heat in 2012. As part of the first player-created NBA superteam he became only the third reigning MVP to change teams and the first since Moses Malone in 1982. That evening, the Heat threw a welcome party for their new "big three" at the American Airlines Arena, an event that took on a rock concert atmosphere. During the gathering, James predicted a dynasty for the Heat and alluded to multiple championships. Outside of Miami, the spectacle was not well-received, furthering the negative public perception of James.
James was born on December 30, 1984 in Akron, Ohio to Gloria Marie James, who was 16 at the time of his birth. His father, Anthony McClelland, has an extensive criminal record and was not involved in his life. When James was growing up, life was often a struggle for the family, as they moved from apartment to apartment in the seedier neighborhoods of Akron while Gloria struggled to find steady work. Realizing that her son would be better off in a more stable family environment, Gloria allowed him to move in with the family of Frank Walker, a local youth football coach who introduced James to basketball when he was nine years old.
LeBron Raymone James Sr. (/ləˈbrɒn/; born December 30, 1984) is an American professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Widely considered one of the greatest NBA players in history, James is frequently compared to Michael Jordan in debates over the greatest basketball player of all time. Playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, and Los Angeles Lakers, James is the only player in NBA history to have won NBA championships with three franchises as Finals MVP. He has competed in ten NBA Finals, including eight consecutive with the Heat and Cavaliers from 2011 through 2018. His accomplishments include four NBA championships, four NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) Awards, four Finals MVP Awards, and two Olympic gold medals. During his 17-year career, James holds the record for all-time playoffs points, is third in all-time points, and eighth in career assists. James has been selected to the All-NBA First Team a record 13 times, made the All-Defensive First Team five times, and has played in 16 All-Star Games, in which he was selected All-Star MVP three times.
Throughout his senior year, James and the Fighting Irish traveled around the country to play a number of nationally ranked teams, including a game on December 12, 2002 against Oak Hill Academy that was nationally televised on ESPN2. Time Warner Cable, looking to capitalize on James's popularity, offered St. Vincent-St. Mary's games to subscribers on a pay-per-view basis throughout the season. For the year, James averaged 31.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 3.4 steals per game, was named Ohio Mr. Basketball and selected to the USA Today All-USA First Team for an unprecedented third consecutive year, and was named Gatorade National Player of the Year for the second consecutive year. He participated in three year-end high school basketball all-star games—the EA Sports Roundball Classic, the Jordan Capital Classic, and the McDonald's All-American Game—losing his National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) eligibility and making it official that he would enter the 2003 NBA draft.
Before naming James to the 2008 Olympic team, Team USA managing director Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski gave James an ultimatum to improve his attitude, and he heeded their advice. At the FIBA Americas Championship 2007, he averaged 18.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game, including a 31-point performance against Argentina in the championship game, the most ever by an American in an Olympic qualifier. Team USA went 10–0, winning the gold medal and qualifying for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. James credited the team's attitude and experience for their improvement, saying: "I don't think we understood what it meant to put on a USA uniform and all the people that we were representing in 2004. We definitely know that now." At the Olympics, Team USA went unbeaten, winning their first gold medal since 2000. In the final game, James turned in 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists against Spain.
James earned his first NBA All-Star Game selection in 2004–05, contributing 13 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists in a winning effort for the Eastern Conference. Around the league, teams took note of his rapid development, with Denver Nuggets coach George Karl telling Sports Illustrated, "It's weird talking about a 20-year-old kid being a great player, but he is a great player ... He's the exception to almost every rule." On March 20, James scored 56 points against the Toronto Raptors, setting Cleveland's new single-game points record. With final averages of 27.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.2 assists, and 2.2 steals per game, he was named to his first All-NBA Team. Despite a 30–20 record to start the year, the Cavaliers again failed to make the playoffs, finishing the season 42–40.
James is represented by agent Rich Paul of Klutch Sports. His first agent was Aaron Goodwin, whom he left in 2005 for Leon Rose. Rose joined Creative Artists Agency (CAA) in 2007, and he worked with fellow CAA agent Henry Thomas, who represented Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, to bring James to Miami in 2010. James left CAA for Paul in 2012. James, Paul, Maverick Carter, and Randy Mims—all childhood friends—formed agent and sports-marketing company LRMR after James left Goodwin. LRMR handles James's marketing, including the marketing of The Decision, for which it was criticized.
In 2006–07, James's averages declined to 27.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 6 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. Some analysts attributed the fall to a regression in his passing skills and shot selection, which stemmed from a lack of effort and focus. The Cavaliers finished the season with 50 wins for the second consecutive year and entered the playoffs as the East's second seed. In Game 5 of the NBA Conference Finals, James notched 48 points with 9 rebounds and 7 assists, scoring 29 of Cleveland's last 30 points, including the game-winning layup with two seconds left, against the Pistons. After the game, play-by-play announcer Marv Albert called the performance "one of the greatest moments in postseason history" and color commentator Steve Kerr described it as "Jordan-esque". In 2012, ESPN ranked the performance the fourth greatest in modern NBA playoff history. The Cavaliers went on to win Game 6 and claim their first-ever Eastern Conference championship, earning them a matchup with the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. During the championship round, James struggled, averaging 22 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 6.8 assists per game on just 35.6 percent shooting, and Cleveland was eliminated in a sweep.
James became an unrestricted free agent at 12:01 am EDT on July 1, 2010. During this time, he was contacted by several teams, including the Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, New Jersey Nets, and Cavaliers. On July 8, he announced on a live ESPN special titled The Decision that he would sign with the Heat. The telecast was broadcast from the Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich, Connecticut and raised $2.5 million for the charity. An additional $3.5 million was raised from advertising revenue, which was donated to other charities. The day before the special, fellow free agents Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade also announced that they would sign with Miami; reports later arose that back in 2006 the trio had discussed among themselves their upcoming 2010 free agencies. James decided to join with Bosh and Wade in part so that he could shoulder less of the offensive load; he thought that his improved teammates would give him a better chance of winning an NBA championship than had he stayed in Cleveland. Heat president Pat Riley played a major role in selling James on the idea of playing with Bosh and Wade. James would be relieved of the burden of scoring, and he thought he could be the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple-double in a season.
Throughout his career, James has taken a unique approach to his NBA contracts, usually opting to sign shorter-term deals in order to maximize his earnings potential and flexibility; for example, in 2006, he and the Cavaliers negotiated a three-year, $60 million contract extension instead of the four-year maximum as it allotted him the option of seeking a new contract worth more money as an unrestricted free agent following the 2010 season. This move ultimately allowed James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh to sign together with the Heat. During his second stint in Cleveland, he began opting out and re-signing on new contracts after each season in order to take advantage of higher salaries resulting from the NBA's rising salary cap. In 2016, he signed with the Cavaliers on a three-year deal, becoming the highest-paid player in the league for the first time in his career.
In March 2008, James became the first black man—and third man overall after Richard Gere and George Clooney—to appear on the cover of Vogue, when he posed with Gisele Bündchen. In response, ESPN columnist Jemele Hill considered the cover offensive and "memorable for the wrong reasons", describing the demeanor of James and his holding Bündchen as a reference to classic imagery of the movie monster King Kong, a dark savage capturing his light-skinned love interest.
In June 2008, James donated $20,000 to a committee to elect Barack Obama as president. Later that year, James gathered almost 20,000 people at the Quicken Loans Arena for a viewing of Obama's 30-minute American Stories, American Solutions television advertisement. The advertisement was shown on a large screen above the stage, where Jay-Z later held a free concert. In November 2016, James endorsed and campaigned for Hillary Clinton for the 2016 presidential election.
At the beginning of James's NBA career, he was considered a poor defensive player, but he improved steadily through the years. In 2009, he became proficient at the chase-down block, which involves coming in from behind the opposition in transition to block their shot. In Miami, he developed into a more versatile defensive player, and the Heat relied on him to guard all five positions. Along with Shane Battier and Dwyane Wade, Miami used James in an ultra-aggressive defensive scheme, with James cheating off the ball to help out inside or get into rebounding position. Beginning in 2014, some analysts reported a regression in his defensive impact, stemming from a lack of effort and expected age-related declines. During his second stint in Cleveland, his defense progressively declined. After missed drives on offense, he often dawdled back on defense while complaining to the referees; he provided less help off the ball, and was less aggressive in switching. James himself admitted to taking plays off at times, referring to this approach as "chill mode". He eventually developed a reputation for raising his defensive level in the playoffs, which some analysts referred to as "Playoff LeBron".
James and his business partner Maverick Carter own production company SpringHill Entertainment, whose first work was the Lions Gate documentary More Than a Game, which was released in 2009 and chronicled James's high school years. Series produced by SpringHill include NBC game show The Wall, the Disney XD sports documentaries Becoming, Starz sitcom Survivor's Remorse, and animated web series The LeBrons. In 2016, CNBC aired an unscripted series hosted by James called Cleveland Hustles, where four up-and-coming Northern Ohio entrepreneurs will be financed on the condition of revitalizing a neighborhood in Cleveland. In the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, a 60-minute Vince Carter documentary entitled The Carter Effect was executive produced by James and Maverick Carter along with rapper Drake and Future the Prince. In February 2018 it was announced that James's production company will produce a new film in the House Party series with James expected to make a cameo. Later that month, Fox News journalist Laura Ingraham told James to "Shut up and dribble" as a response to his political agendas. This largely contributed to James creating a documentary series looking at the changing role of athletes in the current political and cultural climate, aptly named, Shut Up and Dribble on Showtime.
James played basketball for St. Vincent–St. Mary High School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, where he was heavily touted by the national media as a future NBA superstar. A prep-to-pro, he was selected by Cleveland with the first overall pick of the 2003 NBA draft. Named the 2003–04 NBA Rookie of the Year, he soon established himself as one of the league's premier players, winning the NBA MVP Award in 2009 and 2010. After failing to win a championship with Cleveland, James left in 2010 to sign as a free agent with Miami. This move was announced in an ESPN special titled The Decision, and is one of the most controversial free agent decisions in sports history.
On June 29, 2018, James opted out of his contract with the Cavaliers and became an unrestricted free agent. On July 1, his management company, Klutch Sports, announced that he would sign with the Los Angeles Lakers; the deal was officially completed on July 9. In an interview with Sports Illustrated, James's agent, Rich Paul, explained, "In 2010, when he went to Miami, it was about championships. In 2014, when he went back to Cleveland, it was about delivering on a promise. In 2018, it was just about doing what he wants to do." Reaction to the move was more positive than his original departure from the Cavaliers, albeit still mixed, as some onlookers felt that Los Angeles was not his optimal destination.
On the basis of his career longevity and on-court performances, sports publications have consistently included James in rankings of the best basketball players in history, and in December 2019, he was named The Associated Press Male Athlete of the Decade for the 2010s. In addition to praising James's on-court accomplishments, analysts have also noted James's influence on player empowerment throughout the NBA, which stemmed from his willingness to change teams during free agency. For example, Ben Golliver of The Washington Post opined that James's move to the Heat in 2010 "defined a decade of player movement", and that he "fundamentally flipped the power balance between stars and their organizations." James's fellow players have also remarked on his influence, such as Warriors rival Draymond Green, who reflected, "[Players have] taken control of our destiny. And I think a lot of people hate that ... I think the doors that he's opened for athletes and especially basketball players is his biggest accomplishment."
James has signed numerous endorsement contracts; some of the companies that he has done business with are Audemars Piguet, Coca-Cola, Dunkin' Brands, McDonald's, Nike, State Farm and Beats by Dre. Coming out of high school, he was the target of a three-way bidding war among Nike, Reebok, and Adidas, eventually signing with Nike for approximately $90 million. His signature shoes have performed well for Nike. In 2011, Fenway Sports Group became the sole global marketer of his rights, and as part of the deal, he was granted a minority stake in the English Premier League football club Liverpool, who he has claimed his support for. As a result of James's endorsement money and NBA salary, he has been listed as one of the world's highest-paid athletes. In 2013, he surpassed Kobe Bryant as the highest paid basketball player in the world, with earnings of $56.5 million. In 2014, James realized a profit of more than $30 million as part of Apple's acquisition of Beats Electronics; he had originally struck a deal to get a small stake in the company at its inception in exchange for promoting its headphones. In 2015, he was ranked the sixth highest earning sportsperson, and third highest in 2016 (after Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi). James has stated that he would like to own an NBA team in the future, albeit in a hands-off capacity. In 2011, James co-founded the designer retail store UNKNWN in Miami, Florida.
James has three children with Savannah Brinson, his high school sweetheart: Bronny (b. 2004), Bryce (b. 2007), and Zhuri (b. 2014). James proposed to Brinson on December 31, 2011, and the two were married on September 14, 2013 in San Diego, California.
James won his first two NBA championships while playing for the Heat in 2012 and 2013; in both of these years, he also earned league MVP and Finals MVP. After his fourth season with the Heat in 2014, James opted out of his contract to re-sign with the Cavaliers. In 2016, he led the Cavaliers to victory over the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals by coming back from a 3–1 deficit, delivering the franchise's first championship and ending Cleveland's 52-year professional sports title drought. In 2018, James opted out of his contract with the Cavaliers to sign with the Lakers, where he won the 2020 championship and was awarded his fourth Finals MVP.
By 2015, James was considered by many people, including his fellow NBA players, to be the "face of the NBA". His opinions have yielded significant influence on people who make important league decisions; for example, in 2014 he asked commissioner Adam Silver to increase the duration of the All-Star break, and the request was granted the following season. On February 13, 2015, James was elected the first vice president of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA).
Throughout his career, James has been ranked by Forbes as one of the world's most influential athletes, and in 2017, he was listed by Time as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. During his first stint with the Cavaliers, he was adored by local fans, and Sherwin-Williams displayed a giant Nike-produced banner of James on its world headquarters. Despite their affection for James, Cleveland fans and critics were frequently annoyed when he sported a Yankees hat when he attended Cleveland Indians baseball games versus the New York Yankees. Following his actions during the 2010 free agency period and, more specifically, The Decision, he was listed as one of most disliked athletes in the US. By 2013, his image had mostly recovered and he was reported by ESPN as the most popular player in the NBA for the second time in his career. In 2014, he was named the most popular male athlete in America by the Harris Poll. He has led the league in jersey sales six times.
Throughout his career, James has taken stances on controversial issues. On several occasions, he mentioned a feeling of obligation to effect change using his status. Those include the War in Darfur, the Trayvon Martin case, the now-former NBA owner Donald Sterling's racist comments in 2014, the Michael Brown verdict, and the death of Eric Garner. Following a racist incident at his Los Angeles home in 2017, James expressed, "being black in America is tough. We got a long way to go for us as a society and for us as African Americans until we feel equal in America." Later on that year, in the aftermath of the Unite the Right rally, James questioned the "Make America Great Again" slogan and said, "It's sad what's going on in Charlottesville. Is this the direction our country is heading? Make America Great Again huh?" He then said that "Our youth deserve better!!" James also called Trump a "bum" after the president rescinded a White House invitation to Stephen Curry. During a 2018 interview with CNN journalist Don Lemon, James accused Trump for attempting to divide the country with sports, suggesting that "sports has never been something that divides people it's always been something that brings someone together." He declared he would "never sit across from him. I'd sit across from Barack though." In response, Trump tweeted, "LeBron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made LeBron look smart, which isn't easy to do." James has supported Colin Kaepernick in the aftermath of his participation in the national anthem protests, saying that he was being blackballed from a new contract in the National Football League, and that he would hire him if he owned a football team. He has worn his clothing in a show of support several times.
On June 25, 2014, James opted out of his contract with the Heat, and on July 1, he officially became an unrestricted free agent. On July 11, he revealed via a first-person essay in Sports Illustrated that he intended to return to the Cavaliers. In contrast to The Decision, his announcement to return to Cleveland was well received. On July 12, he officially signed with the team, who had compiled a league-worst 97–215 record in the four seasons following his departure. A month after James's signing, the Cavaliers acquired Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves, forming a new star trio along with Kyrie Irving.
In Miami, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra changed James's role to a more unconventional one. James spent more time in the post and improved his shot selection and accuracy on jump shots. He also learned how to work as an off-ball cutter in the Heat's "pass-happy" offense. Behind these improvements, James's overall scoring efficiency rose to historically great levels. During this time, ESPN's Tom Haberstroh called James's free-throw shooting his biggest weakness, describing it as "average". Upon returning to the Cavaliers, James began to experience subtle age-related declines in productivity, posting his lowest scoring averages since his rookie season in 2015 and 2016. His shooting also temporarily regressed, and he briefly ranked as the NBA's worst high-volume shooter from outside the paint. Despite these changes, he remained an elite offensive player who beat defenses with body control, strength, and varying attacking speeds.
James and comedian Jimmy Kimmel co-hosted the 2007 ESPY Awards. In other comedic pursuits, he hosted the 33rd-season premiere of Saturday Night Live. He has also tried his hand at acting, appearing in a cameo role on the HBO series Entourage. In 2015, he played himself in the Judd Apatow film Trainwreck, receiving positive reviews for his performance. That same year, James's digital video company, Uninterrupted, raised $15.8 million from Warner Bros. Entertainment and Turner Sports to help expand the company's efforts to bring athlete-created content to fans. It is hosted on Bleacher Report and is used by several other athletes including Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski and San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman.
James is an active supporter of non-profit organizations, including After-School All-Stars, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and Children's Defense Fund. He also has his own charity foundation, the LeBron James Family Foundation, which is based in Akron. Since 2005, the foundation has held an annual bike-a-thon to raise money for various causes. In 2015, James announced a partnership with the University of Akron to provide scholarships for as many as 2,300 children beginning in 2021. In 2016, he donated $2.5 million to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture to support an exhibit on Muhammad Ali. In 2017, he received the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award from the NBA for his "outstanding service and dedication to the community." In November of that same year, the Akron School Board approved the "I Promise School", a public elementary school created in a partnership with the LeBron James Family Foundation to help struggling elementary school students stay in school. James later reflected that it was his most important professional accomplishment of his life. The school officially opened on July 30, 2018.
Off the court, James has accumulated additional wealth and fame from numerous endorsement contracts. He has been featured in books, documentaries, television commercials, and has hosted the ESPY Awards (including winning 19 ESPY Awards in his own right) and Saturday Night Live. In 2015, he appeared in the film Trainwreck. As a part-owner of Liverpool F.C. (since 2011), James has a Premier League championship to his credit, with the club having won the 2020 title. He is an activist for various causes, including fighting for racial equality, improving the lives of African-American communities, and improving education for students. The LeBron James Family Foundation charity builds upon his vision to improve education for students in Akron, Ohio.
During his stint with the Heat, James resided in Coconut Grove, where he bought a $9 million three-story mansion overlooking Biscayne Bay. In November 2015, James bought a 9,350 square-foot (870 m ) East Coast-style mansion in Brentwood, Los Angeles for about $21 million.
James is also discussed within the context of being the greatest basketball player of all-time, which has resulted in frequent comparisons to Michael Jordan. In a 2016 interview with Sports Illustrated, James acknowledged that his motivation was surpassing Jordan as the greatest. In February 2018, The Ringer spent an entire week devoted to both players, with Bill Simmons ultimately concluding that Jordan was still ahead. In polls, James has ranked second behind Jordan. The results strongly correlate with age, with older voters more commonly choosing Jordan. Davis et al. of Business Insider stated, "The data would suggest that younger, more-engaged NBA fans lean toward James, as he's still playing. Older generations who watched Jordan play and tune in less today lean toward Jordan." Referring to James as the best challenger to Jordan's status as the greatest basketball player of all time, Sam Quinn of CBS Sports stated that "the margin for error where Jordan is involved is overwhelmingly slim" and that "in the rings-obsessed basketball discourse", Jordan having more titles and an "unblemished Finals record holds significant weight."
In February 2019, it was revealed that James would executive produce rapper 2 Chainz's new album Rap or Go to the League. A Def Jam press release said the intent of the album is "celebrating black excellence and focusing on the power of education and entrepreneurship." The press release also says the title "challenges the notion that the only way out of the inner city is either to become a rapper or a ball player".
As of September 2019, James is the most followed basketball player on Instagram.
James rescued fellow basketball player Carmelo Anthony from the water during a boating excursion in the Bahamas with Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul when Anthony was carried away from the boat by the current. Anthony described the incident in an Instagram Live session in March 2020.
James left high school as one of the most hyped prospects in NBA history. Upon entering the NBA, he made an immediate impact and was voted Rookie of the Year in his debut season. As of June 2020, he has been named to 16 All-NBA Teams, including 13 times to the first-team, which are both NBA records. His four MVP awards are matched only by Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, and Bill Russell; James and Russell are the only players to win four MVP awards in a five-year span. James has also won four Finals MVP Awards, which is the second-most all-time, and earned All-Defensive honors every season from 2009 to 2014. While James has never won the Defensive Player of the Year Award, he has finished second in the voting twice and lists it as one of his main goals. His teams have appeared in the Finals ten times and won four championships. His ten Finals appearances are tied for third all-time. Some analysts have criticized him for not having a better Finals record, while others have defended him, arguing that James usually performed well but his team was defeated by superior competition.
Memorabilia associated with James is highly sought after. Two of James's rookie cards are among the most expensive basketball cards ever sold at auction. One of those cards also briefly held the record for the most expensive modern-day sports card when it sold for $1.8 million at auction in July 2020. A Mike Trout rookie card broke the record for a modern-day card the following month. All jerseys worn in the 2020 NBA All-Star Game were auctioned by the NBA and NBPA to raise funds for charity. James's jersey sold for $630,000, setting a record for a modern-day sports jersey.
In August 2020, James wore a modified MAGA hat that called for the arrest of the police officers involved in the shooting of Breonna Taylor. On August 19, 2020 he announced his intentions to campaign for presidential candidate Joe Biden and his running-mate Kamala Harris in advance of the 2020 United States presidential election. James spoke in support of the "More Than A Vote" movement and encouraged members of the African-American community to vote. He said that "People in our community have been just lied to for so many years. We have people that have had convictions in the past, that’ve been told they cannot vote because they got a conviction. That is voter suppression."
Standing 6 feet 9 inches (2.06 m) tall and weighing 250 pounds (113 kg), James has played the majority of his career at the small forward and power forward positions, but has also been deployed at the other positions when necessary. His playing style, which is athletic and versatile, has drawn comparisons to Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan. As of September 2020, James's career averages are 27.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.6 steals, and 0.8 blocks per game. Since 2011, he has been ranked the best player in the NBA by ESPN and Sports Illustrated.