LeBron James has had a journey to the top like none before him.
10 years ago James was on the cover of Sports Illustrated and was dubbed ‘The Chosen One’. While he was a junior in high school James was already being considered the next Michael Jordan. The hype seemed like it would be too much and the entire country was setting James up to fall flat on his face and possibly join Kwame Brown as a bust. But then James was good, really good right away. Even as a rookie James was the most talented player to ever play the game.
James led a terrible Cleveland Cavalier team to the 2007 NBA Finals where they were swept in four games by the San Antonio Spurs, then took home the 2009 and 2010 league Most Valuable Player awards and led the Cavs to the best record in the league over his two MVP seasons. But the Cavs came up short of another trip to the Finals both years. Then when James had an opportunity to opt out of his contract in 2010 he did, and held a national-televised press conference where he announced that he would leave Cleveland to join superstar Dwyane Wade and all-star Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat.
Immediately fans across the country and media personalities bashed James and his decision was supposed to take him out of the Jordan discussion forever. But then in his first year with the team, James led the Heat to the NBA Finals. The conversation began again when former Chicago Bulls forward, six-time NBA champion and former teammate of Jordan, Scottie Pippen said James could be better than Jordan. Then James failed to capture his first championship and scored a total of eight points in four straight fourth quarters of the Finals which only fueled the idea of James not being nearly as good as Jordan or James even being one of the best to ever play the game period.
Then in 2012 everything changed. James went from league villain to a hero in one year. James won his third MVP award, captured his first title and won the Finals MVP award. Then after transforming his play and leading the Heat to the Finals despite an injured Wade and Bosh, James led Team USA and won his second gold medal in the Olympics. The only other player to win both MVP awards and a gold medal in the same year in basketball history is Jordan.
10 years later James is on the cover of Sports Illustrated as ‘Sportsman of the Year’ and as a champion. James is no longer living in the shadow of Jordan or any other NBA legend, he now has a career and journey that stands out from all. He may still need to win more rings to be mentioned with those in Jordan’s company but with just one James’ journey is like no other player before him.