LeBron James Will Forever Be Face of NBA's 'Efficient Superstar' Era

Bryant Knox@@BryantKnoxFeatured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2013

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 02:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat reacts to a three point play during a game against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Arena on January 2, 2013 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Hate him or love him, LeBron James understands the game of basketball as well as anybody in the NBA.

In today’s game, players aren’t simply judged by the numbers they produce; they’re judged by how efficient they can be. Putting up great numbers is a necessity for the superstars in this league, but to garner the most respect, they have to get the most out of each possession.

James has the basketball mind to make the right plays, and he has the physical prowess to dominate virtually any player at any position. Very few players have ever had both to the extent that James does, and because of that, he oozes efficiency every time he hits the court.



Throughout his already illustrious career, James has become the epitome of the point forward. His numbers are impressive, as he’s tallied 6.9 assists per game through nine-plus seasons, but his ability to run an offense is what makes him a special player.

When James lowers his head and gets to the rim, he attracts defenses. He’s a great passer who knows the value of the corner three, and while he’s fortunate enough to have great shooters on his team, those shooters are just as lucky to have James on their side.

James faces double-teams on a regular basis, and rightfully so. He can score with the best that the league has to offer, and defenses have to get the ball out of his hands.

But when James is put in a situation where he has to pass, good things happen for his teammates.

James has had crazy court vision since he entered the league, but he’s getting smarter as he plays in his prime, and he’s averaging a career low in turnovers as a result.



James hasn’t always been the most efficient scorer. Despite his ability to finish at the rim, we used to see him settling for the easy shot away from the basket, making life easy for his defenders.

But times have changed, and James’ mentality is more post-driven than some could have ever imagined.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN reported in 2011 that James was “finally getting serious about his post game” and that he was working with legendary big man Hakeem Olajuwon to refine his game down on the block.

Needless to say, it’s done wonders for his efficiency.

The 6’8”, 250-pound forward is finally playing with his back to the basket. He’s not a true power forward, but the definition of positions go out the window when you have somebody with James’ unique skill set.

After working with Olajuwon, James went on to post a career-high field-goal percentage. He was taking smarter shots, and as a result, his three-point percentage increased as well.

Now, with the 2012-13 season underway, we’ve seen his numbers increase yet again. He’s shooting a career-best 54.5 percent from the field—he is the only perimeter player in the top 10 in field-goal percentage—he’s rebounding the ball 8.5 times per game, and his smarter shot selection has led to a 40 percent three-point percentage as well.

James is arguably the most versatile player in the game today, and with his basketball mind making the right decisions, his efficiency is virtually untouched in a league full of superstars.



James knows how to pass and score with the best of them, which makes him an absolute weapon in transition.

When put in charge of passing, James know how to find the next-best finisher in fast-break situations.

When put in charge of finishing, James does what he does best.

When James gets a look a clean look at the rim, it almost doesn’t matter who’s in his way. There’s not a higher-percentage shot in the game than a dunk, and there are few in the league who throw it down as powerfully and as effectively as James does on a regular basis.

The other thing James can do is turn defense into offense. He’s averaged nearly two steals per game for his career, he can block shots from behind—or straight up—and he’s the rare type of athlete who can both start and finish a fast break regardless of his competition.

Dictionary.com defines the word "efficient" as, "performing or functioning in the best possible manner with the least waste of time and effort."

It's safe to say that James, at 28 years old, is at a point in his career where he's performing at such a high rate that there are virtually no wasted possessions when he has the ball in his hands.

Having the physical prowess to excel athletically is what makes James so tough to defend, but having the brains to make the right plays makes him downright unstoppable.

Put the two together and you have one of the most unique, one-of-a-kind, efficient basketball players to ever play the game. 


*All statistics used are accurate as of Jan. 6, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.