LeBron James on Sunday is expected to win his fourth NBA most valuable player award in five years. He joins Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell as those who have won the trophy at least four times.
However, none of the members of this distinguished club endured the extreme expectations as James.
“I think I’ve been able to exceed expectations because I didn’t get involved into the expectations that people put on me,” James said. “I knew I was making the jump from high school to the NBA because I knew that I was ready. I knew that I could play at a high level. I didn’t care what everyone was writing on me and saying this is who you have to be.”
James, a celebrity since his days at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio, put all the attention in the background. It helped him evolve into one of the best players in league history, a career that began the moment he was placed on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2002 as a high school junior.
At that moment, he was labeled “The Chosen One.”
“I really didn’t know how big it was,” James said of the cover. “I got asked about that a lot. I had been on basketball magazines before. I really didn’t know the magnitude of Sports Illustrated when I was a kid. I’m from Akron, Ohio. We don’t really talk about stuff like that too much. I just thought I was on another basketball magazine. My friends were happy about it. It was in the library at our school. That was it. It kind of started something that I really didn’t know if I was ready for. But the best thing about it was I didn’t know how big of a cover that was. It didn’t really mess with me too much.”
James averaged 26.8 points, eight rebounds and 7.3 assists in his 10th season, leading the Heat to the league’s best record. He somehow managed to improve on last year, which many considered his best season as a pro. James ranked in the top 10 in scoring, assists, steals and field-goal percentage and also finished second in the Defensive Player of the Year voting.
– Reported by Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel