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The King: 30 Years of Heat

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LeBron James comes in at number two on the all-time, all-Heat countdown.

Milwaukee Bucks v Miami Heat
The King on his Court
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

LeBron James is a 6'8", 250 pound “small” forward. Born on December 30th, 1984 in Akron, OH, he's been highly recruited since he was 14. In 2003, he earned McDonald's All American Honors while playing for his alma-mater, Saint Vincent-Saint Mary High in his hometown. His skill was so evident that he was selected first overall without the benefit of college level basketball, by his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers.

From his very first game, James exhibited hoops smarts well beyond his years. His debut would see him sink 12-for-20 shots for 25 points. He also had nine assists, six rebounds, and four steals that night, in a 106-92 victory over the Sacramento Kings. There was a new "King" in town, though. James won the NBA Rookie of the Year award, averaging 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game. James made the all-star team in each of his six following seasons with the Cavs. He ranked eighth with 548 games played, fourth with 3,861 rebounds, second with 3,810 assists, and led the franchise with 15,251 points and 955 steals after his first tour of duty with the club. James made a well publicized "decision" to join the Heat on July 10th, 2010. In return, they had to give the Cavs several future draft picks. They ended up selecting Milan Macvan, Jae Crowder, and Nemanja Nedovic.

James led the Heat in 2010-11 to a 58-24 record. He started 79 times, and played 38.8 minutes per game with a then career best 51% field goal success rate. He shot 33% from three-point range, leading the team with 26.7 points (NBA second), seven rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game (NBA 10th) with 7.5 rebounds (team second). He finished in double figures every game, scoring more than 30 points on 25 occasions. He also made double digits in rebounds 23 times and in assists 14 times, for 31 double doubles and four triple doubles. In a 107-100 overtime victory over the Portland TrailBlazers on January 9th, he hit 17-of-26 shots, including three treys, along with 13 rebounds and six assists. He drained 51 points on February 3rd, shooting 17-for-25 with 11 rebounds and eight helpers in a win against the Orlando Magic, 104-100. He scored 41 points on a 15-for-23 night against the Indiana Pacers on February 8th, along with 13 boards, eight assists and three steals in a 117-112 decision over the Pacers. In a 123-107 Miami win over the Washington Wizards on March 30th, he scored 35 points with eight rebounds, eight assists and five steals. Miami eliminated the Philadelphia 76ers, the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls before losing the Finals in six to the Dallas Mavericks. LBJ's best performance in the playoffs came in Miami's game four, 98-90 overtime win against the Celtics, on May 9th in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. James scored 35 points with 14 boards.

In the lockout shortened 2011-12 season, James helped lead the Heat to a 46-20 overall record, playing 37.5 minutes average over 62 starts. He set new career bests with a 53.1% field goal percentage and with a 36.2% success rate from deep. He led the team with averages of 26.8 points (NBA third), eight rebounds, 7.3 assists, and 1.7 steals (NBA third) per contest. He again reached double figures in every game, scoring more than 30 points 24 times with 23 double doubles. On Christmas Day (the delayed season opener), he scored 37 points with 10 rebounds and six assists in a rematch victory over the Mavericks, 105-94. In a 107-93 win against Portland on March 1st, he scored 38 points with 11 boards, six helpers and five steals. He scored 34 points with 10 assists, seven rebounds and four steals on April 4th in a preview of the upcoming finals, a 98-93 Heat win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. James led the postseason tournament with 30.3 points and 42.7 minutes played per game. He also had 9.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.9 steals per appearance. In Miami's 101-93 game four victory against the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, James scored 40 points with 18 rebounds and nine assists. When the ink dried on the season, James had been named the NBA's MVP for the third time in his career and also earned the MVP for the Finals.

2012-13 would see another improvement on James already career best shooting percentages, with a 56.5% overall rate (NBA fifth) and a 40.6% clip from three-point range. He led the Heat with 26.8 points (NBA fourth), eight rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game, with 1.7 steals (team second) and 0.9 blocks (team third) per contest. He never failed to score at least 13 points, eclipsing the 30 point mark 26 times on his way to 36 double doubles and four triple doubles. In a 99-90 win against the Los Angeles Lakers on January 17th, he scored 39 points on 17-for-25 shooting, with eight assists, seven rebounds and three steals. He played 48 minutes of a 141-129, two overtime win against the Kings on February 26th, scoring 40 points with 16 assists and eight rebounds. He drained 11-of-14 field goal attempts for 32 points wtih 10 assists, eight rebounds, three steals and three blocks as Miami destroyed the Charlotte Bobcats, 109-77 on March 24th. It was Miami's 26th win in a row, on their way to a 66-16 record, good for home court advantage throughout the playoffs. James continued to play his every day game, scoring 25.9 points, 8.4 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 1.8 steals per contest as Miami eliminated the Milwaukee Bucks, the Bulls, the Pacers, and the San Antonio Spurs in seven to claim their second title in a row. James would also earn the NBA Finals MVP and the NBA MVP, both for the second time in a row. The NBA MVP was his fourth overall.

In 2013-14, LeBron’s eventual final season with Miami, he led the team to their fourth consecutive finals appearance and made the all-star team for the 10th time. He was the NBA’s Player of the Month in December and in February. In fact, while with the Heat, he was selected as the NBA’s Player of the Month 12 times, a literal year. Through the regular season, he played in 77 games and played 37.7 minutes per game, shooting a career-high .567 from the field and a career-second-best .379 from deep.

As was customary during his time with the Heat, James scored 27.1 points with 6.9 rebounds, 6.3 assists, and 1.6 steals per game, good for a 29.3 PER and 15.9 Win Shares. For the first time since joining Miami, these last two numbers didn’t lead the NBA. Kevin Durant came in slightly higher with a 29.8 PER and much higher with 19.2 Win Shares. LeBron was, of course, second in each category.

James led Miami to a 52-25 record while on the floor in 2013-14, while they were 2-3 when he sat. He finished in double figures in each contest, a trick he turned 294 of 294 times for the Heat through their regular seasons. He also racked up 12 double-doubles. On February 18th, in a 117-106 win against the Dallas Mavericks, LeBron scored 42 points on 16-for-23 shooting, making half of his eight three-point attempts and adding nine rebounds, six assists, and a pair of steals. On March 3rd, he scored nearly half of Miami’s output in the absence of then-injured Dwyane Wade. James finished with 61 points on 22-of-33 shooting, sinking eight-of-10 from outside and pitching in with seven boards and four helpers as Miami topped the Charlotte Bobcats, 124-107. 10 days later, he dropped 43 points on the Cavs on 14-for-19 shooting, with six rebounds, four assists, three rejections, and two steals in a 100-96 Heat win.

A true iron man, James then appeared in all 20 of Miami’s postseason contests, the fourth time in now seven consecutive seasons in which James has led his team to the final round of the playoffs, winning three times. Unfortunately for the Heat, Miami wasn’t up to the three-peat, running out of gas in five to the San Antonio Spurs. James best game of the postseason was in Miami’s game four, 102-96 win against the Brooklyn Nets on May 12th, in which he scored 49 points on 16-of-24 shooting, with six rebounds and three steals. James rejoined the Cavaliers after the end of the season.

Since rejoining the Cavaliers, LeBron has continued to guide his team to the NBA finals every season. He sits at seventh in the pantheon of the NBA’s all-time top scorers, with 28,596, and at his current rate will top current leader Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in five or six seasons, good health willing.

Stat Line: 294 games, 38.0 minutes, .543 field goals, .369 three-pointers, .758 free throws, 26.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.7 blocks, 29.6 PER, 65.3 Win Shares.

Cumulative GameScore: 8660.7