Lebron James is widely considered as arguably the best basketball player of all time. His overall achievement in the game and personal accolades really back up the claim. Lebron James is an icon, on and off-court. Considered one of the most influential sports personalities all over the world, he still cannot escape harsh criticisms throughout his career.
One of the criticisms thrown at him would revolve around lacking skills in his game. It also includes relying on his athleticism which often disappears and makes it hard for him to adjust once he steps out of his prime. With that said, let’s look back at his professional basketball career.
Making of a King: The Evolution of Lebron James
Lebron James entered the league at the age of eighteen. After coming straight out of high school in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, Cleveland Cavaliers drafted him as the first overall pick. He was heavily drafted as a high school player due to his insane athleticism and a wide margin of talent among his competitors.
In his early years of playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Lebron James’s athleticism and all-around playing style were on full display.
With a physique that isn’t normal for his age, Lebron James dominates the game with his strength and athleticism. He also continuously drives to the basket. His shooting goes below average, tallying 32.7% from three-point land. He also has 81.7% of scores mainly coming from inside the paint.
Despite not having the best handles, and a shooting range that people consider iffy. James also succeeds and even carries the Cavaliers to the NBA finals in his fourth season. However, as the lone star on his team, the dynasty of the San Antonio Spurs overwhelmed the Cavaliers.
After years of stagnant development of his team and as the only superstar, Lebron James entered his prime years from the 2008 to 2009 season. He saw his usage rate increase to the point where he basically did everything for the team. From scoring to passing to facilitating, he fully showcased his all-around game. This, of course, earned him his first Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award.
Despite putting up insane numbers, Lebron James and the Cavaliers aren’t going anywhere and are far from being championship contenders.
The world saw that as the Boston Celtics annihilated them in 2010. This, then, caused Lebron James to doubt his future with the Cavaliers. In the 2010 NBA Free Agency, Lebron James also made a decision that received heavy criticism from many basketball analysts and fans.
Lebron James joined his fellow 2003 draftees Dwayne Wade and Chris Boch in Miami Heat. Together, they formed the Big Three. From being the NBA’s Golden Boy, Lebron James became the league’s villain.
Playing with two other superstars meant Lebron James would see a drop in terms of his averages. However, his playing style developed his off-ball game and shifted away from being a ball-dominant player. He also realized that forcing his way to the basket won’t be the only way to score.
Lebron James improved his post-up play. He also developed further improved his playmaking ability to compliment Wade and Bosh’s style of play in order for their team to win. In return, this earned him and the Miami Heat back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013.
After learning how to win and develop his game further, Lebron James returned to his hometown the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2015. He also promised to bring a championship to the city. James’s playing style became a remix of his game from his early years and his Miami Heat days.
Lebron James’s intense athleticism is still there. However, his off-ball game, his post-up, and his much-improved playmaking ability that he now developed are in his bag.
Lebron James’s 2015 to 2018 version became considered “the most complete basketball player” as he basically did everything at a high level. He had a stellar play, starting the debates about James surpassing Michael Jordan as the greatest of all time. This also came especially after he led the Cavaliers to an NBA championship in 2016. It also came back from a 3-1 deficit and fulfilling his promise to his hometown.
Nearing the end of his prime, Lebron signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2019. He hoped he could enjoy the final years of his playing career. Many expected Lebron to his “father time” and regress excessively. However, we saw another version of him that we never knew would become possible for him to develop considering his age.
The NBA evolved through the years.
From playing the inside game, we saw how the game shifted to the outside game where it became a necessity for every team and player to have a consistent three-point shot. Lebron James also adapted to that change and massively improved his outside shot.
James is not known to have a reliable three-point shot. From his first 15 seasons, he only averages 34.4% from the outside, attempting only 4.1 threes a game. But from 2019 to 2022, James attempted and made more three’s as he improved his average to 35.3% while attempting 6.5 threes a game.
Currently playing in his nineteenth NBA season at the age of 37, many expected Lebron to dip his play as he nears his 40s. But, Lebron once again proved the doubters wrong as he finishes the 2021 to 2022 NBA season averaging an impressive 30.3 points 8.2 rebounds, and 6.2 assists.