Evolution of LeBron James: Complete Timeline Capturing King James' Dominance

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Evolution of LeBron James: Complete Timeline Capturing King James' Dominance
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Miami Heat's LeBron James

LeBron James arrived on the NBA scene in 2003 surrounded by unprecedented expectations of greatness.

Though he'd respond with an NBA Rookie of the Year performance in 2004 followed by his first of nine All-Star appearances in 2005, James' evolution of ultimate dominance began in 2007.

At the age of 22, he led his Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals when not even the most outlandish pundits predicted as much was possible.

Despite James' brilliance throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs that year, he and his team would eventually stumble against the San Antonio Spurs in the finals.

Two years later, in 2009, James would win his first of two MVP awards as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

During the 2009-10 campaign, however, he would also eventually fall to the Boston Celtics in a playoff series that ended his career in Cleveland.

With the support of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, James would find himself back on the NBA Finals stage again in 2011 as a member of the Miami Heat.

He would fall again, though, this time to the Dallas Mavericks while embracing the role of a villain in the NBA's version of a Greek tragedy. 

James responded to the greatest defeat of his career by dominating the league from wire-to-wire in 2011-12. His evolution as an NBA champion was eventually completed that summer after leading his team to a five-game elimination of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the finals.

Now 10 years removed from entering the league out of high school, James remains four games away from a second championship in 2013.
 

May 31, 2007

When LeBron James woke up on the morning of May 31, 2007, his Cleveland Cavaliers were tied with the Detroit Pistons at 2-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals. 

However this series ended, the season was already a success for James and his Cavs, who had just won 50 games during the regular season.

The Pistons, led by Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace and the rest of a veteran group who had helped win an NBA championship in 2004, were the No. 1 seed in the conference. 

The upstart Cavaliers were not expected to win. James and his team were considered to be at least one year ahead of schedule by advancing this far.

In only his fourth season, though, the 22-year-old James would prematurely launch himself into the NBA championship discussion. During Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, James set a career playoff high by scoring 48 points.

His finished with 29 of his team's final 30 on his way to leading Cleveland to a 109-107 double-overtime victory over Detroit. The Cavs would ride that momentum into a Game 6 as well, earning a trip to the NBA Finals.

From this moment on, James was expected to win an NBA championship on an annual basis for the first time in his career. 
 

May 13, 2010

Elsa/Getty Images
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James on May 13, 2010

Regardless of how the narrative reads now, an opportunity did exist for James to win an NBA title in Cleveland as a member of the Cavaliers.

Everything may have had to break especially right, to be fair, but the Cavaliers did win 66 games in '08-09 and then followed that up with 61 wins in '09-10. 

That equates to an overall winning percentage of .780 during James' last two years in Cleveland and is a testament to his dominance. 

During his first two years in Miami, as a comparison, the Heat posted a regular-season winning percentage of .703 as the Big Three worked to blend their talents together collectively.

The period of time that James spent in Cleveland from 2007 until his final game against the Boston Celtics on May 13, 2010, however, would prove to be the most critical years of James' individual evolution. 

While he dominated the regular season with scoring titles and MVPs, he also met failure for the first time in his life during the playoffs. 

On July 8, 2010, he would make the decision to team up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh by joining the Heat in order to secure his first championship.

He wouldn't accomplish that goal, though, until meeting adversity one last time.
 

June 7, 2011

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
James backing down Jason Kidd in Game 4 of the 2011 NBA Finals

LeBron James' first season as a member of the Miami Heat was actually much more successful than most people remember.  

In 79 regular-season games, James averaged 26.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists on what was then a career-high 51 percent shooting from the field.

Despite his postseason performance being most remembered for his ultimate failure, James' production through the first three rounds of the 2011 playoffs read like this: 

* Round 1 - Philadelphia 76ers: 24.2 points, 10.6 rebounds, 6.2 assists.

* Round 2 - Boston Celtics: 28 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists.

* Round 3 - Chicago Bulls: 25.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 6.6 assists.

James and the Heat also only needed 15 games to win the 12 required to advance to the NBA Finals.

During the first three games of the finals against the Dallas Mavericks, James was also averaging 20.3 points on 51 percent shooting to help Miami take a 2-1 series lead.

On June 7, 2011, however, he turned in the worst game of his life at the worst possible time.

James shot 3-of-11 from the field to finish with eight points, and Miami lost by three—86-83.

He would post a triple-double with 17-10-10 in Game 4, but Miami would lose again before being eliminated by Dallas in six games.
 

Christmas Day, 2011

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Miami Heat's LeBron James and Dwyane Wade

LeBron James and the Heat would open the 2011-12 season on Dec. 25, 2011 against the same Mavericks team they were defeated by in the NBA Finals. 

After telling Rachel Nichols of ESPN during an offseason interview that he planned to shed the false persona of an NBA villain and return to playing the game with joy and passion, James finished with 37 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in a 105-94 victory.

From this game forward, he would lead a wire-to-wire campaign as the NBA's most valuable player. 

James responded to his finals performance by playing free and loose on his way to averaging 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.4 assists on a new career high of 53.1 percent shooting.

He would also grade out as the league's most efficient player, with a PER of 30.80, while proving to be the most dominant force on the NBA's most dominant team.

After securing his third MVP award in 2012, James would also increase his production during the playoffs.

Highlighted by a triple-double performance in Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder, James finished with postseason averages of 30.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists.

He'd secure his first NBA championship in the process, the culmination of a five-year evolution that began after defeating the Pistons in 2007.


The 2012-13 campaign

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Miami Heat's LeBron James in 2013 NBA Finals

If any doubt lingered surrounding the staying power of James' championship dominance in 2012, it was quickly removed as the 2012-13 season began. 

James proved to be even more dominant after finally shedding the burden of having never won an NBA title. 

He finished the regular season with a new career high in field-goal percentage at 56.5 percent. He also shot a career-best 40.6 percent from three-point range while setting a career-high with eight rebounds per game. 

The 7.3 assists he dished out were also the second-highest total of his 10-year career, while James' 26.8 points led the Heat in that category for the third year in a row. 

James also led the NBA in PER at 31.67 for the sixth straight season, while finishing fourth overall in scoring. 

He would be named MVP again while leading Miami to an NBA-best 66 wins. 

The only thing left for James to accomplish now is to capitalize on his career-long evolution of dominance by winning his second consecutive championship. 

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