Lebron James: The 15 Most Career-Defining Moments of His Career

Matt Shetler@@buccos12Correspondent IJune 22, 2012

Lebron James: The 15 Most Career-Defining Moments of His Career

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    Since he was a kid in Akron, Ohio, the basketball career of :LeBron James has been filled with defining moments.

    That was punctuated when LBJ finally got that ring after nine years in the NBA.

    James has been so good on the court and now has accomplished everything a player can accomplish on the court.

    To put his basketball career into words is often difficult, but here's a look at the 15 most career-defining moments in LeBron's celebrated career.

15. Sports Illustrated Cover

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    The pressure started early for LeBron when the St. Vincent's High School senior graced the cover of Sports Illustrated and was dubbed "The Chosen One."

    It was a sign of things to come for LeBron as his popularity would continue to soar, and the hype-machine that surrounded him began working overtime.

    The SI Cover introduced the world to a young LeBron, and the world began to pay attention.

14. Playoff Debut

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    After missing out on the playoffs in his first two seasons, James and the Cavs made it in 2006, winning 50 games and earning the No. 4 seed in the East.

    In his first-ever playoff game, James made it something to talk about.

    He became just the third player to record a triple-double in his playoff debut (along with Magic Johnson and Johnny McCarthy), scoring 32 points to go along with 11 rebounds and assists.

    He's hardly a stranger to the big stage; James' performance was just a hint of big moments to come, not just in the rest of his playoff career but in this series as well. Who knew at the time that it would take him seven years to win a title.

    In that first playoff game, James proved that he was made for the big stage.

13. Finally Beats Boston

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    No team frustrated King James the way the Boston Celtics did; LeBron had very little playoff success against the Celtics until 2011.

    Boston sent James and the Cavs home in seven games in 2008 and six games in 2010.

    But while the Celtics seemed to have LeBron's number, in 2011 James finally got over that hump by knocking the Celtics out of the playoffs in five games with a 33 point effort in the close-out game.

    With Boston defeated, there was only one thing left to accomplish.

    It didn't quite play out that way, but finally getting past the Celtics was a defining moment in his career.

12. 2012 MVP Award

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    After his disappointing performance in the 2011 NBA Finals, James could have wilted under all of the pressure and constant criticism he received in 2012.

    Instead, he came out and made a statement.

    James put together one of the best seasons in NBA history, averaging 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.9 steals while shooting 53.1 percent from the floor.

    In the process, he won his third MVP award and showed the world he was up to the challenge of leading a team and handling the pressure.

11. 2008 Gold Medal

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    Don't overlook LeBron's Olympic gold win on his list of accomplishments.

    For all the criticism he takes, James is a great person at heart and really took to representing his country.

    The U.S., while favorites, did face some tough competition, and James was at his best as usual.

10. The Decision

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    "The Decision" will always be defining in LBJ's career for the impact it not only had on his basketball career, but for the impact it had on his popularity.

    Winning a ring bumps "The Decision" down a few notches on this list.  Even though it has been two years, that one interview has defined a part of his career in many people's eyes.

    Eventually people will get over it, but it's still talked about way too much and will be something that follows LBJ around.

9. 2012 vs. Indiana

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    You heard it many times—that LeBron can't close and can't put a team on his back when the pressure is on him in the postseason.

    If there was ever a statement game from LBJ, this was it.

    With the Pacers up 2-1 in the series and Dwyane Wade struggling big time, James looked pressure in the face and led the Heat to a win with one of the greatest postseason performances in NBA history.

    At the end of the day, his line read 40 points, 18 rebounds and 9 assists and answered many of his critics in the process.

8. 2009 vs. Orlando Magic

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    You heard this one as well—that LeBron isn't clutch with the game on the line.

    James scored 35 points in this one, but the final three of those were defining when LBJ hit a huge buzzer-beating three-pointer against the Magic.

    With all of the criticism he has received in the years after that, people forget that LeBron, indeed, can come through with the game on the line when it counts the most.

7. Duel with Paul Pierce

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    This was one of the most memorable playoff duels of all time.

    Paul Pierce would hit a shot. James would have the answer. That proceeded the entire second half as James scored 45 points in a Game 7 Cleveland loss.

    It was a defining moment where LBJ showed just how much talent he truly has. Everyone in the world knew he was getting the ball, but there was just no way anyone could stop him.

6. Triple Double in Title Clinching Game

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    The triple-double he put up top to clinch the series against Oklahoma City was defining, but James was on such a postseason roll that a title was almost guaranteed at that point.

    Regardless, it turned out to be the biggest win in his nine-year career.

    James scored 26 points, dished out 13 assists and grabbed 11 rebounds in a performance for the ages that finally got him his first ring.

5. 2011 Finals vs Dallas Mavericks

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    Why is a series in which LeBron didn't play well and the Miami Heat lost in the NBA Finals ranked so high?

    That's because the lessons LBJ learned in defeat proved invaluable to what we saw this season during the playoffs.

    James became a man that wouldn't be denied, and I don't think we see the same focus from him without the failures of last season.

    It's not how hard you can hit someone but how many times you can get up after being hit that defines the great ones. Some players can't handle the adversity, but LeBron looked adversity in the eye and knocked it out.

    Sometimes you learn more through failure than you do through success, and James is a great example of that.

4. 2012 Eastern Conference Finals vs. Boston Celtics

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    Down 3-2 in the series and playing on the road against his old nemesis, many people expected James to crumble.

    Instead this game defines what we would see the rest of his postseason career. When the Heat needed him the most, James delivered a 45 point, 15 assist effort in a close-out game with Miami's back against the wall.

    People have been waiting for LeBron to put the Heat on his back, and he did so in this one.

3. The Cramp Game

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    Some may have felt that LeBron didn't have the heart to come through and fight through the pain when his team needed him the most.

    A hobbled James proved he was tough enough in Game 4 of the NBA Finals when after leaving with cramps, he stepped back on the floor to knock down a big three-pointer to help the Heat take a 3-1 series lead.

    The great ones find a way.

    LeBron certainly did that.

2. 2007 Eastern Confernce Finals vs Detroit Pistons

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    In one of the greatest performances in NBA playoff history, James took over Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Detroit Pistons, scoring 25 consecutive points and 29 of Cleveland's final 30.

    It was the type of performance that NBA fans don't get to see a lot.

    Many thought this moment would forever be No. 1 in LeBron's best moments, but he finally found a way to top that.

1. Finally

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    "It's about damn time."

    Those are the words LeBron used to sum up his feelings on finally winning a ring, and he pretty much summed it all up.

    It may have taken a while, but winning that first title has defined what already is a Hall of Fame career.

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