8 things to know about LeBron James

NBA superstar LeBron James is considered one of the greatest players in history.
NBA superstar LeBron James is considered one of the greatest players in history. PHOTO: AFP

NBA superstar LeBron James will join the Los Angeles Lakers in a four-year deal worth US$154 million (S$210 million), his agents said on Sunday (July 1), joining a legacy that includes other basketball celebrity athletes like Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant. Here are eight things you should know about James:

1. AN ILLUSTRIOUS CAREER

James is considered one of the greatest players in history, along with rival and retired Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan. One of the most extensively awarded basketball players, James has been named the National Basketball Association's (NBA's) Most Valuable Player four times - in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013.

He was also named the NBA Finals MVP three times - in 2012, 2013 and 2016 - and in 2004 was named "Rookie of the Year", a year after he was drafted. He was also part of the United States national team in three Olympic Games, where they won bronze in 2004 and then gold in 2008 and 2012.

2. NOT THE FIRST TIME

This is not the first time James is leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers since he first joined in 2003. In July 2010, just two months after the team suffered their worst home play-off loss in history, James announced he was leaving for the Miami Heats. This decision drew rampant criticism from fans and fellow basketball players, including Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert called the decision a "cowardly betrayal", saying it was a "shameful display of selfishness" in an open letter posted on the team's website.

James later rejoined in July 2014, saying he was "coming home".

3. PALS WITH OBAMA

James has a longstanding friendship with former US president Barack Obama, visiting the White House multiple times while the latter was in office and even sending him birthday wishes over Twitter. When Obama left office, James recorded a heartfelt farewell message, thanking him and calling him and his family a "true inspiration".

More concretely, James donated US$20,000 to a committee to elect Obama in June 2008. That same year, he also took part in an early-voter registration rally and hosted a free concert with rap star Jay-Z at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio (home to the Cavaliers), to support the then Illinois state senator. The concert attracted almost 20,000 people.

4. RICHEST BASKETBALL PLAYER

James' net worth is estimated to be US$85.5 million (S$117 million), placing him sixth on Forbes' list of the World's Highest Paid Athletes. This also makes him the richest basketball player on that list, putting him ahead of Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.

About US$52 million of James' money comes from endorsement deals, including with big brands like Coca-Cola, Beats By Dre, Kia Motor and Intel. Possibly his most famous is a lifetime contract with sports giant Nike, rumoured to be worth more than US$1 billion.

5. PHILANTHROPIST AND ACTIVIST

James runs his own charity called the Family Foundation, which helps needy children in his home town of Akron, Ohio, through scholarships and other programmes. The non-profit is planning to spend US$41 million to send children to college for free, and is opening its first public elementary school at the end of this month.

James has also been active in raising awareness about race issues in the US, including denouncing race-based hate crime and protesting the murder of Trayvon Martin, an African-American teen who was shot dead by a neighbourhood watch volunteer in 2012 while walking home.

He has also been outspoken about his disdain for Donald Trump, calling the US President a "bum" after the White House rescinded an invitation to fellow basketball superstar Stephen Curry.

In 2017, the NBA awarded James with the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for "outstanding service and dedication to the community".

 

6. LEBRON JAMES, THE STAR... QUARTERBACK?

While attending St Vincent-St Mary High School in his home town of Akron, James was a notable varsity American footballer. He was an all-state receiver as a sophomore and junior, setting several records and attracting scholarship offers from Ohio State University, Notre Dame University and the University of Southern California. There was even speculation that James might one day make it to the National Football League.

7. LIVERPOOL FAN

James bought a 2 per cent stake in the football club Liverpool in 2011 worth approximately US$6.5 million. His stake in the famous English club has paid off, with the value of the club growing more than five times. ESPN estimates that the stake is currently worth over US$32 million.

8. FIRST BLACK MAN ON VOGUE

In March 2008, James became the first African-American man to grace the cover of fashion magazine Vogue, and the third man ever to do so.

This piece of publicity was not without controversy, however. An ESPN columnist called the cover "memorable for the wrong reasons", comparing the image of the hulking James holding slender Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen with posters of the savage movie monster King Kong capturing a white woman. Vogue and James were criticised for perpetuating racial stereotypes of black men as apes and savages.