Yes, he’s only 24 years old. Yes, he's only played six full seasons in the NBA. But he’s earned a place here with a total package of skills that have not been seen since the days of Oscar Robertson.
Last year’s MVP is a freakish hybrid of some of the game's greatest stars: he combines the sky-high athleticism of Julius Erving, the passing skills and court vision of Magic Johnson, the strength and power of Charles Barkley, and the raw scoring ability of Michael Jordan.
Citing examples of this versatility, last season he became only the fourth player to lead his team in all five of the major statistical categories (points, assists, rebounds, steals, and blocks), and he also joined Oscar Robertson as one of the only two players to average 27 points, six rebounds and six assists in five consecutive seasons.
With that said, it's hard to figure out why so many fans (as well as so-called "professional" sports analysts like Skip Bayless) just don't like James or call him overrated. He came into the league with expectations that have not been seen since the days of a young Lew Alcindor. And all he's done since the age of 18 is surpass everyone's wildest fantasies.
"King" James has already reached career numbers most NBA veterans would give up their left arm to achieve. He was the youngest player to reach 10,000 points (he now has 13,641). His career averages are 27.6 PPG, 6.8 APG, and 7.0 RPG. His ppg average of 27.6 is third in league history behind only Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain.
For the uneducated masses who try to say James does not show up at crunch time (I'm talking to you, Skip Bayless), his playoff averages actually increase in each category during the 60 playoff games in which he has already played (another stat most veterans would love to have on their resume), going up to 29.4 PPG, 7.3 APG, and 8.3 RPG.
James became the youngest player to win the MVP award in 2008 and finished second in MVP voting to Steve Nash in 2006.
In 2004 James won Rookie of the Year, joining Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan as the only players to average at least 20 PPG, five APG, and five RPG during their rookie seasons.
James is a five time NBA All-Star, winning the All-Star game MVP twice.
He was the 2008 NBA scoring champion, and also made the All-Defensive first team in 2009.
James helped lead Team USA to a gold medal in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.
During the 2006-07 season, James led the Cavaliers to their first ever NBA championship, where they were defeated by the San Antonio Spurs.
However, that 2007 playoff run included an unforgettable performance in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Detroit Pistons, in which James scored the team's final 25 points, leading his team to a double overtime victory.
It's true James may still need to develop a more consistent jump shot, and he will surely need to take his team back to the championship round a couple more times. But assuming he can do those things, by the time his career is over some twelve or fifteen years from now, he just may have to be moved to number one on this list of small forwards.