Miami Heat

21 People Who Made LeBron James the Man He Is Today

David MurphyFeatured ColumnistDecember 30, 2013

21 People Who Made LeBron James the Man He Is Today

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    LeBron James has reached many milestones and plateaus. However, he hasn't reached them alone.

    Born December 30, 1984, James has been described, not without justification, as the King of Basketball. He’s a two-time world champion, a two-time Finals Most Valuable Player, a four-time NBA MVP, a nine-time NBA All-Star, a two-time All-Star MVP, an NBA scoring champion and the Rookie of the Year.

    He is, without question, the greatest player in the game of basketball today.

    James is turning 29, a lifetime that has very much been spent in the public eye. He was a standout athlete in youth leagues and varsity sports. We watched, discussed, debated and anticipated as it became inevitable that he would go straight from high school into the NBA.

    Despite all the fame and fortune, he’s still loyal to a small inner circle of family and close friends who’ve been there since the beginning.

    James may be the centerpiece of the back-to-back world-champion Miami Heat but his story goes back to Akron, Ohio. Before the endorsements, the bright lights and all the accolades, there was some growing up to do. 

    There was also life-changing relationships that would be formed—influences and alliances that would guide him through all the trials and tribulations as he climbed to the very top of the basketball world.

    We might has well start at the beginning.

Gloria James

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    A list of the most important people in LeBron James’ life must start with his mom. Gloria James was just 16 years old when she had her first and only child. LeBron's father was never active in his life—Gloria was his everything.

    In an interview with Matt McMillin for WebMD Magazine, James spoke of an awe that leaves him a little tongue-tied:

    I don’t have the words, I can’t sit here and explain. I had my mother to blanket me, to give me security. [When I was] growing up, she was my mother, my father, everything. To grow up in a single-parent household, to see what she could do all by herself, that gave me a lot of strength.

    As a teenager, Gloria lived with her brothers Curt and Terry and their mother Freda in a large, rambling old house near the railroad tracks on Hickory Street in downtown Akron, Ohio. 

    Freda, a hairstylist, died tragically from a heart attack on Christmas Day, 1987. Gloria was just 19 at the time and LeBron was less than a week away from his third birthday. Gloria and her brothers tried to maintain the home but there wasn’t enough money to pay all the bills. It was a harsh, cold winter in Ohio that year and James' family was soon without heat. Gloria and her son began a challenging and often nomadic journey.

    In a 2010 CNN interview, Larry King asked James about moving so often and his memories of those days:

    My memories of those days was -- you know, every day that you woke up, you knew it was going to be a struggle. For me, already being part of a single parent household and knowing it was just me and my mom, you'd would wake up times and hope that the next day you'd be able to be alongside your mother because she was out trying to make sure that I was taken care of. But all I cared about was her being home.

    In time, a sense of normalcy returned but James never forgot the challenges of those early years and in 2004, he founded the LeBron James Family Foundation which focuses on helping children and single-parent households succeed in school and everyday life.

    As for Gloria, she always found the time for her son and sums up her dedication succinctly:

    The most important—and sometime the hardest lesson to learn is patience. It doesn’t matter if you’re sick and tired. Your baby doesn’t know what, doesn’t know when you’re irritated. And it’s always about that baby, it’s not about you.

The Walker Family

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    It's hard to imagine a more important early influence on LeBron James' life than the Walker family. By age eight, James was playing pee wee football for the South Side Rangers, a team coached by Frank Walker. One of James’ friends and teammates was Frankie, Jr. The following year when James was in fourth grade, his living situation was becoming increasingly precarious. His mother was moving frequently, mostly staying with various friends.

    In an ESPN The Magazine article by Tom Friend, James states that he missed 82 out of 160 days of school that year, while also changing schools frequently. Frank Walker and his wife Pam became aware that Gloria was considering a different living arrangement for her son. They suggested that LeBron move in with them until she could get back on her feet.

    Frank Walker also persuaded James to join his first rec-league basketball team, the Summit Lake Community Center Hornets. A year later, LeBron joined an AAU traveling youth league basketball team, the Shooting Stars.

    LeBron stayed with the Walker family on weeknights and with his mom on weekends. In "LeBron James: The Making of an MVP," Terry Pluto and Brian Windhorst relay LeBron's thoughts on the sense of normalcy and discipline the new arrangement brought:

    They made me get up every day and go to school. There were days I didn't want to go to school. Being part of a family, a mom-and-dad surrounding … you had a brother and you had two sisters … it was an unbelievable experience for me at a young age. It opened my eyes up to become what I am today, why I act the way I am today.

    The Walkers were instrumental in helping Gloria find her own apartment, and LeBron moved back in with his mom while in sixth grade. But he continued to stay with the Walkers on the weekend. 

    James and his mother continued their close friendship with the Walker family throughout the coming years. In fact, Pam often gave James a ride to school in the morning, even during high school at St. Vincent-St. Mary.

The Fab Four, and Eventually, Fab Five

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    The Fab Four were childhood friends, allies and teammates—they were inseparable.

    Besides James himself, the self-titled group included Sian Cotton, Dru Joyce III and Willie McGee. They were just some kids from the neighborhood when they began hanging out and playing for rival youth league teams.

    By the age of eight, James was playing at the Summit Lake Community Center while the diminutive Joyce, known as “Little Dru,” played at the Ed Davis Community Center. The two of them began practicing together at the Salvation Army gym and soon became part of a traveling youth league team known as the Northeast Ohio Shooting Stars, coached by Little Dru’s dad—Dru Joyce II.

    Cotton, who played baseball and football but had no basketball experience, was persuaded to join based on his size. When the kids were in fifth grade, the team qualified for the national AAU tournament for kids 11 and under, held in Cocoa Beach, Florida. They placed ninth out of 64 teams and afterward, returned to Akron with a renewed sense of purpose.

    McGee, who had recently moved from Chicago to live with his older brother was next to come on board. The Fab Four were now in place—and they became best friends.

    James would later write about his childhood experiences in a book entitled Shooting Stars, written with Buzz Bissinger and released through Penguin Press. Excerpts can be found in Vanity Fair.

    After eighth grade, the four friends made a pact to attend high school together. The logical choice was John R. Buchtel High School, a predominately black public school with a well-established basketball program. In fact, there was a great expectation that James, who was now widely regarded as a star in the making, would attend. Joyce, however, feared that he wouldn’t make the varsity squad, even though his dad was an assistant coach there.

    Meanwhile, Keith Dambrot, who coached both Joyce and James in AAU clinics, had become head coach at St. Vincent-St. Mary, a small, affluent Roman Catholic college preparatory that offered scholarship aid. The school boasted a well-known football program but its basketball team wasn't as highly regarded as Buchtel's. Still, the parochial prep school had a lot going for it and Joyce lobbied the others.

    In an interview with Charles McGrath for the New York Times, James spoke about the decision to attend the school often known simply as St. V:

    This is the place where all the dreams turned into reality. If you grow up poor and black in this country, you dream a lot, but you don’t really think they’re going to come true. This is where it all started — where I began to think I could do it.

    At St. V, basketball standout Romeo Travis became the fifth member of the close-knit group which re-titled itself as the Fab Five. 

    LeBron and his teammates were soon making history. The Fighting Irish basketball squad won three state championships and a national title during James' tenure. Coach Dru Joyce II from LeBron's youth league teams arrived during the Fab Four's junior and senior years. After all these years he's still coaching at SVSM, continuing the winning tradition.

    During James' four years at St. V, the team accumulated a 101-6 record. During his senior year, LeBron averaged 30.4 points per game, 9.7 rebounds and 4.9 assists.

    Joyce went on to four years of college at the University of Akron, playing under coach Keith Dambrot. After college, Joyce made his way overseas to play Euroleague basketball. He’s currently the point guard for EWE Baskets in Germany.

    Travis Romeo also continued his hoop dreams after high school, attending the University of Akron alongside Dru, and earning Associated Press All-American honors. Romeo has also enjoyed a successful overseas basketball career, playing for numerous teams since graduating college in 2007. He is currently playing for Khimik Uzhny in the Ukrainian Basketball SuperLeague.

    Willie McGee attended the University of Akron with Dru and Travis, but stayed to earn his master's degree. He’s currently working for Oriana House, a facility for those with drug and alcohol problems.

    Sian Cotton chose to attend Ohio State instead of U of A, playing defensive tackle for the Buckeyes on a football scholarship. He’s currently working on a music career.

Dru Joyce II

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    A leading figure in Akron sports, as well as the father of one of LeBron James' best childhood friends, Dru Joyce II has had a longstanding influence on the basketball legend. 

    Joyce coached James in pee wee sports and little league baseball, as well as youth league basketball for the AAU Northeast Ohio Shooting Stars. The team included Sian Cotton, Willie McGee and Joyce's son, Little Dru. This core group of players and best friends were soon calling themselves the Fab Four. Under Coach Dru's guidance, they played together until eighth grade, going to the AAU nationals in Orlando, Florida.

    Joyce also coached LeBron during his junior and senior years at Saint Vincent-Saint Mary, in Akron, Ohio. The Fighting Irish won three state titles and a national title during James’ four years with the team, and Joyce is still the head coach.

    In 2009, Joyce and James sat down with Fox 8 to talk about the documentary “More Than a Game,” which chronicled the lives of James and fellow teammates as they progressed from youth league sports to adult life.

    Speaking of the challenges, Joyce had this to say:

    It wasn’t always easy, it wasn’t always fun at times, there were hard times. But through all that, you know, we continued to rally around one another and when you do that you can persevere and you can weather those storms.

    In 2012, after the Miami Heat won their first NBA championship with James, Joyce spoke with Mary Schmitt Boyer for the Plain Dealer. The subject was the public criticism that James faced the year before, after his nationally broadcast “decision” and the failure of the Heat to win a title in his first year with the team.

    This year, he forgot about the critics and just played the game the way he's been taught to play it, the way he's enjoyed playing it. He understood what the team need from him and he made those changes. He did the kinds of things he did growing up and in high school -- he did whatever his team needed. That was big.

    When you stay focused on the things you can control -- your attitude and your effort -- and you let all that other stuff go, you can make those kinds of strides. You've seen him grow up a lot.

Keith Dambrot

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    One of James’ early basketball influences, Keith Dambrot has remained in touch with the superstar. As a 13 year-old, James, was coached by Dambrot for AAU basketball clinics at the Akron Jewish Community Center. Dambrot was the basketball coach at St. Vincent-St. Mary High during James' freshman and sophomore years before moving on to the University of Akron, where’s he’s still head coach. Speaking to Larry Platt for GQ Magazine, Dambrot recalled LeBron’s early basketball genius:

    I remember in practice during his freshman year, he caught the ball in the low post and somehow sensed the double-team coming and whipped the ball without looking, over his head, to a teammate under the hoop. High schoolers don’t do that. A lot of pros don’t do that. I’ve coached four guys who went on to be in the NBA, and I knew then that this kid would be in the NBA.

    Speaking with Mary Schmitt Boyer at the Plain Dealer, Dambrot recalled inviting James in for a chat in the Akron basketball players lounge, shortly before the start to the Heat’s 2011-12 season:

    I sat him down and I said, 'Look you can stop me anytime you want. If you think I'm overstepping my bounds, you can stop me.' I just hit him with going back to the beginning, going back to the basics, doing things that he didn't want to do -- like rebounding, playing in the post, moving without the ball. But mostly about just the mental side of handling the criticism and trying to play through misses and getting on to the next play, not letting plays bother him or games bother him or anything bother him and just playing again, having fun playing.

    He was great. I talked to him about being coachable. I have a theory that people may wander off their course, but they are who they are. He's always been a coachable guy, a guy who wanted to win and play the right way. I knew that he could get back to where he wanted to get. But he had to look himself in the mirror. He agreed with me. I give him a lot of credit for that. He already knew.

Four Horseman

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    LeBron James is known for his loyalty and has brought his close friends into his varied businesses. Those friends have in turn, helped the busy superstar grow his brand. While there were the Fab Four (and then Five) in prep school, James, Maverick Carter, Rich Paul and Randy Mims call themselves the Four Horsemen.

    The other Horsemen form the nucleus of James’ primary management group, as well as being the founders of LRMR Marketing. The acronym comes from the partners’ first names—LeBron, Rich, Maverick and Randy.

    A former teammate at St. Vincent-St Mary, Maverick Carter went on to work with Nike before becoming James’ primary business partner. An advocate of branding and creative partnerships, Carter was a founding member of LRMR Marketing and subsequently partnered the company with Fenway Sports Management.

    Speaking with Jason Whitlock for Fox Sports, Carter tells a story that is typical to his creative marketing approach. Carter was visiting with Jimmy Iovine, the chairman of Interscope Records, who had just demonstrated the new Beats headphones by Dr. Dre.

    “I say, ‘Jimmy, let me get 15 pair.’ He’s like, ‘Mav, these aren’t on the market yet. I don’t even know if I have 15 in my office. I say, ‘Jimmy, let me get 15 pair and watch what I do with them.’ ”

    Iovine obliges. Carter gives the headphones to James, instructs the two-time NBA MVP to gift them to his 2008 Olympic teammates as they board their flight to China. As he presents the headphones, James shares a short speech that touches on the significance of their journey and how the Beats symbolize the sincerity of their commitment to put team goals ahead of individual ones.

    When the Redeem Team deplaned in Beijing, the international press awaited LeBron, Kobe, D-Wade, ’Melo and D12. A paparazzi-like contingent of still and television cameras captured their arrival. Fifteen new pairs of Beats draped the heads and necks of the world’s most recognizable athletes as they conducted their initial, impromptu Olympic interviews.

    Carter engineered the ultimate product placement, a genius, massive, free advertising campaign.

    Rich Paul had a chance meeting with James when they were both juniors. Each had grown up in urban Cleveland environments and each attended Catholic prep schools. They formed a close friendship and would ultimately become business partners.

    Chris Broussard of ESPN The Magazine writes about the friendship:

    He'd accompany James to hoop camps and tournaments. They'd spend hours doing pushups and talking about everything from being considered just another inner-city kid to the importance of respecting your mother regardless of her past. "I was always picking his mind, and he was always picking mine," James says.

    Shortly after James was drafted, he called Paul one afternoon and asked for his Social Security number. Paul had no idea what James was up to, but about a week later he received a check from King James Inc. It was his first two weeks' pay. There was no plan -- certainly no business plan -- in place then, but James was confident they'd figure it out along the way. "I just felt like Rich was someone I wanted to grow with," James says. "He'd always kept it real with me, and I wanted him to be down with my team."

    Paul was one of the founding partners of LRMR and worked with the powerhouse Creative Arts Agency. After a few years, he left CAA to form his own agency: Klutch Sports Group. In the process, he took one of CAA’s most valued clients, James, with him. Running his boutique agency from Cleveland, Paul also represents Eric Bledsoe of the Phoenix Suns and Tristan Thompson, selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the fourth overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft.

    Randy Mims has probably known LeBron longer than anyone, save for immediate family. The two met when James was just five years old, living and playing in the rough Akron housing projects. Mims doesn’t maintain as high a profile of others in James’ inner circle but has long enjoyed a special level of trust.

    Mims earned a marketing degree, worked in management for AT&T, was a player liaison for the Cleveland Cavaliers and ultimately, became James’ manager. He’s married with a family, currently living in Miami Beach’s Coconut Grove neighborhood.

Savannah Brinson James

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    LeBron James met his future wife Savannah Brinson when he was a senior at St. Vincent-St. Mary. Brinson was a year younger and attending John R. Buchtel High, where she was a cheerleader and played softball. They met at a football game and were soon inseparable.

    According to Lola Ogunnaike for Harper’s Bazaar, Brinson never anticipated that James would soon become the most sought-after player in the NBA:

    “I just thought he'd be a hometown hero for his era and it would be over. He was a normal high school senior," she says, though he was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated before he even graduated. Then, during her senior year—and James's rookie year in the NBA—she discovered she was pregnant. It was not planned, she says. "I was thinking, 'What am I going to tell my parents? What's going to happen to his career?'"

    As it turned out, LeBron’s career progressed just fine—he was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the No. 1 overall pick after graduating high school. Brinson gave birth to LeBron Jr. during James' sophomore season. Playing for the Cavaliers allowed the family to continue living in Akron, albeit a far better lifestyle than before, thanks to a seven-year endorsement deal with Nike, worth more than $90 million. Life had changed for the young couple in a way that they could only have dreamed about.

    Three years later, another son was born to the young couple—Bryce Maximus. James signed with the Miami Heat in 2010, and since then, the family has maintained homes in both Florida and Ohio. There's been another major change as well. On September 14, 2013, Savannah and LeBron were wed in a lavish three-day event in San Diego, California.

    In addition to raising a family, Savannah keeps busy with a number of ventures, including a children’s furniture line she designed in collaboration with American Signature, and a charity she founded, Girl Listen, which is aimed at helping to empower teenage girls who are facing challenges that range from teen pregnancy to drug abuse.

    Most recently, Mrs. James also jumped into the high-end juice business, opening The Juice Spot in Miami’s Brickell community. 

    More than a decade after they first met at that high school football game, their relationship and love for one another is still going strong. As LeBron said in the Harper's interview:

    "A person like myself always needs a great sidekick and a person you can rely on no matter the circumstances. And she's that. She's got my back, and I love her for that."

Mike Brown

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    Mike Brown, the 2009 Coach of the Year, came to Cleveland in 2005. He enjoyed a highly successful run as LeBron James' head coach, including a trip to the NBA Finals in 2007. They've maintained a mutual respect and admiration since going their separate ways. Brown, of course, is now back with the Cavaliers after briefly coaching the Los Angeles Lakers.

    The five-year partnership of James and Brown was marked by hard work and progress, in addition to plenty of fun. Chris Ballard for Sports Illustrated writes about one game in particular:

    During a timeout in the fourth quarter, coach Mike Brown begins drawing up a convoluted offensive set-he is renowned for intricate plays with names like Elbow 153 Roll 5C Punch-and works himself into something of an expository corner. As Brown erases and reerases the whiteboard, the players' attention wanders until LeBron looks at Brown and calmly says, "Coach, man, we only got five guys and 24 seconds." His teammates crack up, Brown concedes his point, and Cleveland runs the first element of the play, a dive cut, for a basket.

    When James heard about the Lakers hiring his former coach in 2010, he had this to say to Marc Spears from Yahoo! Sports:

    Mike Brown is a great coach. He gave us success that we hadn’t had before in that city. It just started with his defensive concepts. He brought in a defensive mindset that we didn’t have. … We were competitive year after year because of him and his coaching staff. I respect him and I’m grateful to have him as a coach throughout the years that I had him. He definitely helped me to become who I am today.

    As noted recently by David J. Neal for the Miami Herald, Brown is just as complimentary toward his former star.

    He is an extremely hard worker, one of the hardest I’ve been around, Brown said. When you have a guy that’s that hungry to get better, then you are going to keep getting better. The crazy part about it is, I wouldn’t put it past him that he can still improve his game. He is older, and he is better.

LeBron James, Jr. and Bryce Maximus

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    LeBron, Jr. (“Bronny”) was born October 6, 2004, just before James’ second season with the Cleveland Cavaliers. A few years later, a second son came along. Bryce Maximus was born June 14, 2007.

    Unlike his own dad, James has embraced fatherhood.

    The Miami Heat had to travel to Los Angeles to take on the Lakers on Christmas Day. It’s hard being away from the kids during the holidays, so James simply brought the family along.

    It must be fun to be LeBron’s kids on Christmas Day. The King himself wrote on Instagram: "These boys have been going non stop since 6am LA time! Love the fact I can provide for them and see them excited and happy on this special day."

    James has also not shied from the spotlight when it comes to his role as a father. In Sports On Earth, Selena Roberts writes about the “At Home” commercial that James made for Samsung, how it’s choreographed to showcase camera-phone gadgets and fun at home as well as providing a peek through the keyhole of the star’s off-court life:

    But beneath the sweet branding, there is an unscripted message that is a soulful sirens' song to the abandoned: LeBron makes fatherhood cool. The image travels. In the urban reaches, a fatherless boy can watch a young, black male -- a 28-year-old superstar of superstars -- embracing the Daddy life. In the rural stretches, a kid being reared by a single mother can see a strong male taking part in parenting. Does modeling make that big of a difference? Does imagery carry that much weight?

Pat Riley

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    James has spoken of his respect for Riley, but more than any mutual admiration, their relationship is defined by how Riley's vision determined James' course. 

    In 2010, Riley pulled off a nifty feat—creating enough salary-cap space to make a run at the mother lode of free agents: LeBron James, Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat’s own Dwyane Wade. Of course, James was the most coveted free agent in the league's history. Every team wooed him to leave for greener pastures while the Cleveland Cavaliers desperately tried to keep him home.

    We all know how it ended—The Decision.

    James joined Bosh and Wade to form the most powerful threesome in the league and the collective cornerstone of a team that would reach the NBA Finals in 2011 and return to win the title in 2012 and 2013.

    Ever since, Riley, who carries the respect of so many in the NBA community, has become one of LeBron's biggest advocates. In his Hang Time Blog, Sekou Smith wrote about last season’s Most Valuable Player Award, which James won for the fourth time in five seasons. Riley was the presenter and he made a pretty definitive statement:

    Over these 46 years, I’ve had an opportunity to see some great players — and all the ones I’ve observed, watched and have seen, they’ve always gotten better. In my humble opinion, I believe the man right here is the best of them all.

    The best of them all, according a guy who claims has seen them all and who has coached more than a few stars. Smith delves into the weight of such a statement and the comparisons to names like Jordan, Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson, Chamberlain, Bird, West, Bryant, O’Neal and more. Smith:

    The same declaration from almost any other man would mean little to most. Everyone has opinions about who the true G.O.A.T is and most of them are framed by a generational bias that is hard to shake. But when a man with a breadth of experience that travels through time, or at least the past 46 years, points a finger at someone, it wakes you up.

Erik Spoelstra

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    LeBron James was already a two-time MVP when he joined the Miami Heat in the summer of 2010. In Miami, he found a coach in Erik Spoelstra who encouraged hard work, trust and discipline. The partnership has resulted in two NBA rings for LeBron so far, and the work continues.

    Kevin Arnovitiz for ESPN captured James’ perspective on a coach’s unwavering commitment:

    When it seems like the world is crashing down on us, he's always like, 'We're gonna get through it. It starts with me and we're all going to get through it. Let's just stay focused and continue to grind, James says. Then things would get better. You respect that. When your general doesn't panic, no matter what the situation is, then the rest of the soldiers don't panic either.

    Spoelstra is as equally respectful and straightforward when it comes to talking about James. After the Heat won the championship in 2012, he described how LeBron embodies all the qualities you want in a champion, and that yet, he was criticized, adding:

    And that’s why, to go through this journey, and he had to get out of his comfort zone, to leave the place where he grew up, start fresh with a new team and many people would not have had the courage to go through that, and then to go through all those trials and tribulations to get to this point—he’s earned it and we’re so proud of him.

Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh

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    As the story goes, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh formed a bond during the 2007 Olympic trials and expanded their friendship during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The trio eventually made a pact to play together for the Miami Heat.

    Such an alliance wouldn’t be uncommon for James. After all, there has been precedent in the Fab Four’s decision to attend high school together, and the business partnership known as the Four Horsemen.

    The extent of LeBron's “Decision” was formed through a common bond that may never be completely understood; but James clearly felt the Miami Heat offered the best chance for an NBA championship—and he was right. The trio of the 2003 draft class members delivered, winning two titles (so far) together.

    It’s not all fun and games with the Miami Heat superstars. There’s plenty of hard work and moments when differences of opinion have to be reconciled. As reported by Brian Windhorst for ESPN The Magazine, here’s what James had to say:

    It’s not a bed of roses with me and (Wade) and (Chris Bosh). We get on each other if we feel like they’re not doing their job. We feel like it is constructive criticism that we need to have for one another to have a productive team. Anytime you have new teammates, it doesn’t matter if you’re friends or not, you have to realize certain people react to certain situations. Some people can be yelled at and still play, some people you have to do it in a certain way.

    For his part, Wade has expressed his support and friendship, including these words, captured by ESPN Sports Center in 2010:

    Outside of basketball, me and LeBron are the best of friends and we lean on each other. When I go through my trials and tribulations off the court, he’s the guy who hits me every day to make sure my mind is right and I do the same thing. I don’t think people understand that it’s a bigger picture than just basketball.

    Chris Bosh has a different type of personality, he’s not so much a close buddy of James and Wade as he is a teammate who cares, and cares deeply. When asked by Oprah Winfrey about his relationship with them, Bosh said this:

    I’m more reserved than these two guys. But when we hang out it’s good times. I just like to sit back and laugh. I feel like I’m in the audience and it’s a comedy team.

    Oprah continued, asking about the one quality Bosh admired in both James and Wade, and this time he spoke about how resilient they are and about the challenges of being under the microscope:

    Just to see how these guys are able to put everything to the side and really sacrifice for this team, and really come out and work hard and be professional and do what they do every day, despite so many things trying to pull you down. I admire that about them every day.

    With LeBron James celebrating another birthday, and well into year 11 in the NBA, well-established patterns have emerged. He’s loyal to family, friends and teammates. He understands the importance of a support structure, but also understands the importance of controlling and shaping his own destiny.

    An athlete’s career can be short in the greater scheme of things, and what comes next is often determined by decisions that are relegated to others. For James, self-empowerment came from recognizing his own talent, as well as his identity and the power of marketing. He is a self-made man but he has also put his trust in a small and fiercely loyal group. Together, they have changed sports and the business of sports.

    It’s also worth noting that we may not have seen the best yet out of James himself. He is a player who is driven to improve his game and who isn’t content with what he’s already accomplished. The best of a man isn’t only what is demonstrated on the field of play of course, nor is it any other solitary thing.

    29 years ago, a kid was born in Akron, Ohio, to a single, teenage mom and their future was uncertain to say the least. Nearly three decades later we can make an argument that he’s the best of the best in basketball. James is also a son, a husband, a father and a loyal friend.

    Just ask the most important people in his life.

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