LeBron Raymone James (born December 30, 1984 in Akron, Ohio) is an NBA small forward for the Los Angeles Lakers. Previously, he played for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat, winning championships for each team he's played.
Considered to be the face of the league since at least the start of the 2010s, if not earlier than that, LeBron is the holder of four NBA championships and four NBA MVP awards. With numerous other awards such as four NBA Finals MVP awards, an NBA scoring title, selection to the NBA All-Star game in all but one of his 17 seasons in the league, records of 16 overall and 13 first-team All-NBA selections, a Rookie of the Year award, and two Olympic Gold Medals, he is considered by many to be the greatest basketball player since Michael Jordan (and some will argue that James is superior). Not to mention that he's the only individual to have been named Sportsperson of the Year by Sports Illustrated three times.*
Tropes associated with LeBron James:
- The Ace: Considered to be one for the Cavaliers, especially in the 2017-2018 season where he led Cleveland to the Finals, despite the Cavs having major issues due to roster changes (such as losing perennial All-Star Kyrie Irving to Boston in what turned out to be a lopsided deal in the Celtics' favor). LeBron took it to another level when the media and the fans seriously started to consider that he might be better than Michael Jordan, who is by far the consensus best player in NBA history, and considered by many to be untouchable in that regard. James mostly earned this distinction by winning his conference eight years in a row, with two different teams (Miami and Cleveland); only one other player has appeared in the Finals in as many consecutive years while also being a league MVP (Bill Russell did so 10 times from 1957-66, all with the same Boston Celtics team). After moving to the L.A. Lakers, he led them to a championship in his second season after barely missing the playoffs his first season there, winning it for Kobe Bryant after a long, hard, arduous season that impacted the Lakers physically, mentally, and emotionally.
- Always Someone Better:
- Michael Jordan is this to him. While it's debatable who is the better player, Jordan has the accolades to back him up, winning as many Finals series as LeBron has lost. LeBron himself has stated that his main motivation is to catch "the ghost [who] played in Chicago".
- Early in LeBron's career, Kobe Bryant was considered that also, due to the similar nature Kobe had with Michael Jordan throughout his career. While they never met in the Playoffs, fans still compared the two before LeBron's signing with the Lakers.
- The argument can be made that he's this to Kevin Durant, who admittedly joined the Golden State Warriors to not only beat LeBron James but also (temporarily) usurped him as the best player in the NBA.
- From the day he signed with Miami to the day his second run in Cleveland ended, LeBron and/or his team played this role to the entire rest of the Eastern Conference. For those eight seasons, he and his team won their division and the conference finals every single year, placing either 1st or 2nd in the bracket in all but the last of those years—and in a conference where sub-.500 teams snuck into the playoffs onto the regular, the list of contenders who even had a chance of knocking LeBron and company down was never longer than one or two names.
- Before the 2021 NBA Playoffs, LeBron himself was seen as that for every single first round opponent for every single team he went up against. Before matching up against the Phoenix Suns that season as the #7 seed, he managed to never lose an entire series in the first round to anyone whenever he entered the NBA Playoffs, usually making due with his opponents there with little to no trouble whatsoever. In fairness to LeBron and the Lakers, his team was one of only two total teams to have little rest between playing in the 2020 NBA Finals and starting the 2020-21 season only two months later. However, after leading against the Suns 2-1 at one point, Anthony Davis ended up with injury issues, which combined with the Suns being extra motivated by perceived embarrassment in Game 3 of that series caused by LeBron himself (and Andre Drummond on the bench), led to his first defeat in a series to someone in the first round.note
- Bash Brothers: When he was on the Heat, LeBron was this with Dwyane Wadenote , one of his best friends off the court. One of their signature moves was an alley-oop pass to one another.
- By the time Anthony Davis was traded to the Lakers in 2019, he established this relationship with LeBron - one that actually had roots in the distant past when a younger Davis once traveled to Ohio to attend a basketball seminar ran by James. Their subsequent season saw them perform to such a great degree that their collective statline made them rival some of the greatest duos in Lakers' franchise history, such as Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, and Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
- Chew Toy: The Toronto Raptors are this to him. From 2016-2018, the Raptors faced LeBron and the Cavaliers in the playoffs three straight times, losing each series soundly. While the 2016 contest was a hard fought one in the Conference Finals, the 2017-2018 second-round series were utter bloodbaths in which the Cavs would sweep the Raptors in 4 straight games each, with LeBron being a major factor in each sweep, and despite the Raptors being favored in both series. It got so bad that people were poking fun at Toronto, calling it LeBronto, a spin on how badly LeBron has manhandled the Raptors. Incidentally, Toronto would win the NBA title in LBJ's first season in L.A. - one that he wasn't in to begin with.
- He's also turned the Atlanta Hawks into one whenever they've met in the playoffs. It doesn't get as much attention because the first encounter was years before the other two, but LeBron and company have swept the Hawks all three times they've faced off.
- Crutch Character: As a Cavalier, he was the biggest example in the entire NBA. During his first run with Cleveland in the 2000s, LeBron pulled some absolutely Herculean feats, even dragging the team to the 2007 Finals pretty much by himself, but he could never overcome the shallow pool of supporting talent around him. When he left for Miami, the Cavs cratered so completely that they went from having the league's best record in '09-'10 to its second-worst in '10-'11. Upon his return, he avoided this problem for the first couple seasons, thanks to the Cavs having multiple other stars like Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to share the load, and it paid off with their famous upset series victory over the Warriors in the 2016 Finals. But after securing that ring, a mix of trades, injuries, and—in J.R. Smith's case—the occasional boneheaded play at the worst possible time slowly forced LeBron back into the role by the end of the 2017-18 season, where he carried the team to their fourth straight Eastern Conference title before promptly getting swept by the Warriors. Hilariously, once he left for Los Angeles, the Cavaliers posted the exact same record they did after his first disappearance, though they at least had the comfort of not being dead last in the East this time.
- Defeating the Undefeatable: Took the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors - who had set the record for having the best regular season in NBA history - and came back from a 3-1 deficit to win Cleveland's first major sports title in more than 50 years.
- The Dreaded: Even to this day, a lot of teams treat LeBron this way due to his bottomless skillset. This also applies to any team's fanbase, but especially that of the Toronto Raptors who were swept in the second round two years in a row. You could imagine the Raptors' fanbase heaving a huge sigh of relief when LeBron left for the Lakers, and an even bigger one when the Lakers missed the playoffs.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: The unexpected 3-1 upset comeback in the 2016 NBA Finals over Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors can be considered that to both James and fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers. After dealing with tons of heartbreak as a team and then seeing LeBron leave for the Miami Heat, the Cavaliers easily fell into the doldrums of mockery once again... at least for one season. From there, they drafted Kyrie Irving, who was perceived as their next superstar in the making, and even after winning two championships with the Heat, LeBron felt like he saw something in that team to come back to them for a second run over staying with Miami and their aging duo of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. After trading Cleveland's last two #1 picks (Anthony Bennett & Andrew Wiggins) to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love (thus creating a new Big 3 in Cleveland), the Cavaliers faced significant injuries in the return to the NBA Finals, losing a 4-1 series to the Golden State Warriors in 2015. To make matters worse for them, not only did Golden State improve themselves to legendary team status with a 73-9 NBA record (surpassing even Michael Jordan and the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' all-time best record of 72-10), but Cleveland fired head coach David Blatt (someone who was well respected in Israel) and replaced him with a then-unproven interim head coach in Tyronn Lue (someone that some fans probably would best remember as being mocked by Allen Iverson in the 2001 NBA Finals). Despite these unexpected setbacks, however, the Cavaliers not only returned to the NBA Finals once again, but dealt with serious adversity early on that series before a reversal of fortunes ended up changing fate for the Cavaliers, giving them the unexpected upset over an all-time great team and letting LeBron fulfill his original destiny of winning a championship for Cleveland at long last.
- The 2019-20 season can also be considered that for the him and the Los Angeles Lakers due to the emotional turmoil they had to deal with around the start of 2020 onward. First, LeBron and the Lakers had to deal with the emotional baggage of team legend (and former rival to James) Kobe Bryant tragically dying unexpectedly on January 26, 2020 before then figuring out how to deal with the eventual worldwide turmoil that was the COVID-19 Pandemic once that virus hit U.S. shores in March, just when the Lakers finally broke their longest Playoff drought in team history. Once it was decided the NBA could resume their season (albeit at Walt Disney World via the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex for the rest of that season), the Lakers alongside every other NBA team competing at the time had to deal with the environmental changes that came from the unfamiliar settings at hand. However, while the Lakers did not finish off their regular season so strongly at the complex, they did play the 2020 NBA Playoffs like they would any other Playoff year, competing as hard as they could under some very good competition that had already qualified there (mostly by default). Once entering the Playoffs, they managed to beat each Western Conference opponent 4-1 in each series before having LeBron's former team, the Miami Heat, come up to them and take their upstart selves to six games before ultimately losing to James and the Lakers in a blowout favoring the Lakers for not just their 17th championship (tying the Boston Celtics for that all-time glory, as well as dedicating this one to Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna), but James' fourth with three different teams.
- Easily Forgiven: When LeBron left his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Miami Heat in the summer of 2010, just about the entire city felt betrayed and LeBron became an instant villain, as well as arguably the most hated sports figure in Cleveland's history (his only competition being Art Modell). Fans burned his memorabilia in protest and anguish, his murals in Cleveland were either removed, defaced, or both, and his presence at the Cavaliers' home arena elicited "Roman Reigns the day after he retired The Undertaker" levels of boos and fan vitriol, plus the need for increased security personnel.
When he became a free agent in 2014, however, and declared that he was "coming home", he was welcomed with open arms, and remains beloved in his home town, especially after bringing an NBA championship to the title-deprived Clevelandnote in 2016.
In 2018 when he once again became a free agent and then signed with the Los Angeles Lakers fans were left sad but not angered this time around, thanking him for leading the Cavaliers to four consecutive Finals appearances and one championship, Cleveland's first in over 50 years.
- Fake-Hair Drama: LeBron started losing his hair a few seasons into his career, and his on-and-off attempts to disguise it have become something of a Running Gag over the years.
- Fandom Rivalry:
- Fans of LeBron James and fans of Michael Jordan will probably never settle the debate on which player is greater. Supporters of Jordan will point to the fact that Jordan has won more championships and Finals MVPs, and has a perfect record in the Finals, and also that Jordan was more clutch. Fans of LeBron will say that he is the better, more versatile athlete. He led ten teams to the NBA Finals, winning four of them with three different franchises, where he was inauspiciously matched up against historically great teams like the Golden State Warriors.
- His fandom clashed with Kobe Bryant's in the late 2000s/early 2010s, particularly before LeBron started to win championships and firmly established himself as one of the best players to ever touch a basketball. This slowly waned when LeBron moved to the Lakers in 2018, at which point the strong personal friendship both shared helped improve his reputation as Kobe's successor in being the Laker superstar capable of bringing the organization more championship gold. LeBron's later comments in the wake of Kobe's passing further established his dedication to the Lakers' cause further, culminating with a successful NBA championship run dedicated to the Black Mamba's memory.
- Genius Bruiser: It gets overlooked a lot compared to his athletic gifts, but LeBron James has arguably the highest basketball IQ in the league thanks to his Photographic Memory, allowing him to remember every play he's seen, and use them to his advantage to set up plays for his teammates. This was most evidenced in the 2018 Conference Semifinals against the Toronto Raptors; despite the Raptors holding the #1 seed and the Cavaliers holding the fourth, LeBron noticed that the Raptors' playbook had not differed in the playoffs than from the regular season. He used this factor to utterly humiliate the Raptors in 4 games, leading to the Raptors' head coach being fired despite winning Coach of the Year that season.
- Heel Realization: After his departure from the Cavaliers in 2010 culminating in being unanimously hated by most basketball fans outside of Miami, LeBron embraced the villain role. However, after losing to the Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals, he publicly admitted how he left the Cavaliers wasn't the best move and how being the villain sucked the natural joy of playing basketball because he tried to play the game with hate. This ultimately was a factor in his decision to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers after the 2014 Finals.
- Lightning Bruiser: LeBron moves his 6'8", 260-pound body like a tank with turbo boosters. Of the ten players on the floor at a given moment, there's always a chance that LeBron is one of the strongest and fastest players among them at the same time, even in his later years in the NBA.
- Power Up Letdown: The 2021-22 Lakers were considered exactly that, despite James doing everything he could to not let that happen to them. In addition to LeBron and Anthony Davis returning, the Lakers also acquired more (super)star caliber players like L.A. native Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and DeAndre Jordan, as well as reacquired Dwight Howard once again to have a star-studded roster fitting to compete against what the Brooklyn Nets had done the previous two seasons with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and many other players of similar (super)star caliber talents like James Harden, DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul Millsap, Ben Simmons, Andre Drummond, and Goran Dragić (though not all of them played together with the Nets for fairly obvious reasons). Unlike those Nets teams, though, who at the very least played in the Playoffs in both of those seasons, the 2021-22 Lakers somehow managed to perform even worse than they did in LeBron's first season in Los Angeles, despite having a much more talented looking roster on paper and a championship winning head coach in Frank Vogel. That season led to Vogel being fired after the end of it for the Lakers.
- Rags to Riches: LeBron was born to a teenage single mother in the projects (with his father never officially being considered discovered to the public eye), and moved from house to house as his mother found work. Today he is one of the highest paid athletes in the world, with a net worth of $850 million, as well as one of the best basketball players of all-time.
- Red Baron: King James; alternatively, the King or simply his initials, LBJ.
- The Rival: Stephen Curry. The rivalry practically writes itself. As if it's not enough that James' Cavaliers and Curry's Warriors are the only two teams in NBA history to meet in four consecutive Finals series (no other pair of teams has done it more than twice), James and Curry are almost the complete antithesis of one another as players. Curry is a masterful shooter who, by NBA standards, is nothing special physically and relies on scoring from the outside. LeBron is arguably the most physically gifted NBA player of all time who scores primarily at the rim. The two get bonus rivalry points for the fact that they were born in the same hospital 3 years apart, Curry to a millionaire NBA player father and LeBron to a single mom on public assistance; the difference is almost comic book-like. Even recently, in the 2021 play-in tournament, LeBron and Curry had to compete hard against each other to earn a playoff spot that season.
- Self-Deprecation: He will sometimes take jabs at himself for his absolutely dismal performance in the 2011 NBA Finals. Most notable is his suggestion to use footage of his play from that series to put a crying baby to sleep.
- Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Almost every article, analysis or discussion even remotely related to the Cleveland Cavaliers during LeBron's time playing with them had LeBron as the main subject (Like: "How will the Celtics beat LeBron?").
- It even extends to ESPN. A frequent criticism of the network is that no matter what, they will always find some excuse to talk about him. Same is also said for Bleacher Report as well.
- Tempting Fate: Infamously announced that the new-look 2010-2011 Heat came together to win "not one, not two...", but eight or more championships in one of his first post-Decision public appearances. What happened that year was perhaps his worst performance of his entire career in 2011, losing to the Dallas Mavericks in the finals. Sure, Miami won back-to-back titles after that dismal performance, and conceivably could've had a three-peat if the 2014 Finals had gone their way, but when you set the bar that high, anything you do afterwards loses some of its luster.
- Took a Level in Badass: During the 2011 NBA Finals with the Heat taking on the Dallas Mavericks, LeBron had an absolutely dismal performance in Game 4, as the Heat ultimately lost the finals to the Mavs. Given that he had proclaimed a desire to win multiple championships with the Heat almost immediately after he signed with them, fans took this game and piled on the criticism on James. James took this loss pretty hard and used the summer as a period of self-reflection, before redeeming himself in 2012 and 2013, winning Finals MVP both times.
- During the 2021-22 season, James not only reached the 10,000 rebound barrier to become the first player to surpass it while also scoring 30,000 points in the NBA, but he also reached 10,000 assists as well, becoming the only player in NBA history to reach those kinds of numbers there. Not only that, he also surpassed Karl Malone for the second-best scorer in NBA history (now being behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for that ultimate milestone in terms of regular season games playednote ) at 37 years old. He also became the oldest player to average 30 points per game in a season that year, thus booking his career of sorts back when he was the youngest player ever to average 30 points per game when he was 21 years old.