In every decade there seems to be a very special player that comes along and helps changes the game of basketball.
Players such as Bob Pettit in the 50's, Wilt Chamberlin in the 60's, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the 70's, Magic Johnson in the 80's, Michael Jordan in the 90's and now many might argue that LeBron James is that athlete for today's generation.
It wasn't long ago when fans were debating whether or not Kobe Bryant or Kevin Durant had the potential to be this generation's signature superstar.
No one is seriously discussing that anymore.
The question that I want to explore today is what characteristics LeBron James possesses that make him the dominant player that he is today.
As you are reading these I want you to think of each area in terms of your own game. If you do, it just might provide you with some insight on how you too can elevate your game and transform yourself from good to great.
The first thing you notice about LeBron besides his unbelievable raw athleticism is the fact that he competes! Whether he is playing the San Antonia Spurs for the NBA Championship or the Milwaukee Bucks in a twenty point blowout (sorry Milwaukie fans), he competes. That competitive nature has allowed him to be at his very best when his best is needed as evidenced by his NBA record holding scoring average over his NBA Finals career.
Regardless of what you think of his decision to go to Miami, LeBron left Cleveland because he wanted to win. It wasn't about scoring, money, fame, etc. - all those things were in greater abundance in Cleveland. He also went to a team where he would have to share the ball, and the spotlight, with two other potential superstars instead of just one as is the case on many other NBA teams.
He Is a "Team Scorer"
There are dozens of way a ball player can score the basketball. They can score off the break, hit a pull up jump shot, spot up for a three, break you down and attack the rim, work you over on the block and so on and so on. BUT what separates LeBron's scoring abilities from the majority of other well known scorers is the fact that he doesn't have to force his points. He doesn't have to play one on one or one on two to get his shot off. Instead he lets the offense develop carefully waiting for his opportunity to exploit the defense (this doesn't mean that LeBron can't go one and one just that he chooses not too).
From a team perspective having this type of player on your squad is HUGE because it allows all the other players on the floor to be more involved and engaged during each possession. Involved and engaged players are going to consistently compete harder because they are going to feel as if they are a more integral part of the team! (Just ask Dwight Howard!)
He is a Basketball Player not a Number
Kobe is a shooting guard, Carmelo a small forward, Durant is a shooting guard in a small forward body, Kareem was a center and so was Wilt Chamberlain. What is LeBron James? Most of the time it depends on the game, the opponent, and what is needed. Besides Magic Johnson, what other impact player can you think of who not only could but did effectively play every single position on the floor when necessary?
He Has a Defensive Presence
Great players understand that offense makes up only 50 percent of the game. It doesn't matter if you are a great scorer and average 20 points a game, if you give up 14 points a game to your opponent you really only are averaging 6.
In the past few years, LeBron has understood this simple truth and has changed himself from an "influencer" to a "disrupter" on defense. He has transformed himself from a great athlete to a great scorer to a great player. Think back on the recent NBA Finals - not only LeBron establish himself inside with his block of the Spurs' Tiago Splitter but also outside when he defended Tony Parker and kept him from penetrating in crunch time. If the current crop of young NBA superstars (and a couple of the older ones as well) ever want to ever be mentioned in the same conversation as LeBron this is one of the areas that they must step up and improve.
Let's be perfectly honest here - chances are that when it comes to pure athleticism you are never going to be LeBron James. However, you can be like him by being extremely competitive, being a team scorer, improving your versatility, and establishing a defensive presence.