LeBron James is undeniably one of the greatest basketball players in NBA history, and one of the reasons why is his genius basketball IQ. But what, exactly, does that mean? And how is the King able to consistently translate intellectual understanding into flawless practical action over and over again?
Thanks to the NBA's recent hiatus, LeBron's had some time to think and talk, and recently he and numerous current and former colleagues spoke to Melissa Rohlin of Sports Illustrated about how James perceives basketball.
Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers said "there's nobody in the NBA with his brain," while Los Angeles Lakers teammate Quinn Cook stated that "[James] knows everybody...he could be last guy on the bench on the team, but he knows he's left-handed, he's a shooter, don't go under him, he's a driver, stuff like that."
As for LeBron himself? Interestingly enough, he doesn't have a ton of insight into why he's so uniquely gifted. As is the case with most prodigiously talented people, his photographic memory and quick brain is not a recently acquired gift. It's been with him his whole life, so it is his normal.
Predictably, James is self-aware about this, saying to SI that, "[he's] always had it...I never thought about it. I didn't even know what photographic memory meant...until I got older. It's something that I was born with or blessed with."
He seemingly doesn't take it for granted, either, understanding that he's able to reach a higher ceiling than most of his peers because of his natural understanding of the game. On this topic, he said, "I think you can do better with the game. I think you can learn from your experiences. But I don't know if IQ can be learned. I'm not quite sure because I've always kind of had it."
This preternatural gift of perception doesn't even just apply to basketball. Teammates report that LeBron has an encyclopedic knowledge of films and music and is an excellent card player, while on a more dour note, James himself wishes he could forget things like his harsh upbringing on the streets of Northeast Ohio.
While the King is 35 and his seemingly indestructible body is bound to begin declining at some point, he will likely remain a bona fide star as long as he plays because of his exceptional understanding of the game. But as far as we know, that decline might still be a ways away. For now, he's ready and able to bring a 17th title to Tinseltown.