The LeBron James Guide to Success

Brendan BowersContributor IIMarch 12, 2013

The LeBron James Guide to Success

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    The LeBron James guide to success highlights the measures that the three-time NBA Most Valuable Player has taken to get to where he's at today.

    As a result of his tireless work ethic and the time spent developing his game in the summer, James is turning in the most productive season of his career. The work that's gone into this production, however, dates as far back as his time with the Cleveland Cavaliers

    From his physical preparation to his renewed winning mentality, this guide illustrates how James has ascended to the top of the Association. 

A Work Ethic to Match His Talent

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    LeBron James is the most gifted athlete in the NBA.

    Beyond the talent James has been blessed with, though, the work he puts in when the cameras are off is what truly allows him to maximize his abilities.

    After recording the fourth of what would be seven straight 30-point performances from Feb. 3 to Feb. 14, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra spoke with Simon Evans of Reuters about James' work ethic:

    "This guy isn’t shying away from work ethic or preparation. He’s getting after it. My film sessions−he treats them like he is a coach," Spoelstra said.

    Statistically speaking, that work ethic is most evidenced by the career-high 56.2 percent James is shooting from the floor through Monday.

    He's also shooting a career-best 40.4 percent from three while posting the highest rebounding total of his career at 8.1 per contest.

Moving His Game Closer to the Basket

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    In August of 2011, following the Miami Heat's loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals, LeBron James made the conscious decision to move his game closer to the basket.

    In order to develop his back-to-the-basket game, James traveled to Houston to learn from a Hall of Famer (via Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com):

    Without fanfare, James had his private jet stop in Houston for some workouts with [Hakeem] Olajuwon to tap the Hall of Famer's valuable knowledge of that old but rare skill of playing with your back to the basket. 

    In his second season since first visiting Olajuwon, James is posting career highs on both shots attempted at the rim (79.2 percent) and those from three to nine feet (59.8 percent), according to HoopData.com.

    Compared to his 2011-12 output, he is also attempting one less field goal per game from 10-15 feet and 1.5 less field goals from 16-23 feet. 

    The 3.4 attempts he's averaging from three-point range this season are also well below his career average of four. 

Making the Best in the Business Better

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    Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were both superstars long before LeBron James arrived in South Beach.

    But what's sometimes lost on James' MVP-caliber season is that both Wade and Bosh are also having career years shooting the basketball.

    Through Monday, Wade is averaging 21.8 points on career-best 52.3 percent shooting from the floor. His previous high—over the course of 10 NBA seasons—was 50 percent in the 2010-11 campaign.

    Meanwhile, Bosh is also shooting as efficiently as ever. Though his scoring average is down at 16.9 points per night, he has converted a career-high 53.9 percent of the field goals he's attempted.

    The net result of all that efficiency has been an 18-game winning streak and the Eastern Conference's best record at 47-14.

A Dedication to Player Efficiency

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    LeBron James didn't attend the Sports Analytics Conference at MIT last month, but I'd guess his poster was somewhere in the building.

    From the film room to the basketball court, James is a player very mindful of advanced statistics.

    The areas of his game he's developed over the course of his career, along with his dominance of the categories those statistics measure, reflect this mindset.

    With a player efficiency rating of 31.20 in 2012-13, James is on pace to lead the NBA in PER for the sixth straight season.

Keeping His Body Ready to Play

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    In 2009, Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer first highlighted the steps that LeBron James takes in order to keep his body in world-class playing shape.

    One aspect of this workout regimen, not involving a basketball, is yoga.   

    As he's matured, part out of necessity and part out of pride, he's serious about preparing and maintaining his body for the rigors of an NBA season. That includes a wide range of measures from diet and recovery techniques to the Vajrasana, Virasana and the particularly stunning Salamba Sarvangasana. 

    They are yoga poses and they are also an essential part of James' routine every week.

    Prior to this season, James has missed only 30 of the 718 games his teams were scheduled play.

    When you consider the pounding that he takes every time he attacks the basket, for James to have himself healthy enough to play in 96 percent of his team's games over nine seasons is astounding.

The Desire to Defend

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    For all that Mike Brown might not be as a basketball coach, he is the man responsible for convincing LeBron James to play elite defense at the NBA level. 

    After being drafted to a team with a losing culture, James quickly learned that the best teams are defeated on the defensive end of the floor. In his fourth professional season under Brown, he led an underdog Cleveland Cavaliers team to the 2007 NBA Finals.

    In the time since, James has continued to embrace the defensive principles he learned from Brown. 

    In addition to all the chase-down block highlights, James has been named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team four times, beginning in 2009.

Developing a Mentality for Success

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    LeBron James is not the player he was when he first arrived in Miami for the 2010-11 season.

    As he told Rachel Nichols of ESPN following the Heat's loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals, he spent that first season in South Beach attempting to be something he was not.

    Once he made the decision to no longer embrace the role of an NBA villain, James allowed himself to approach the game with a renewed mentality for success.

    Playing with even more unbridled passion this season—after finally winning the NBA championship that eluded him for nearly a decade—there is no stopping James at this point in his career.

    A fourth MVP is inevitable, and a second NBA title is likely.