From Greek tragedy to double Olympic triumph
A key member of the USA basketball team since 2004, LeBron James suffered disappointment in Athens before enjoying two consecutive Olympic titles in Beijing and London.
“The Chosen One”
Born into a poor family in Akron, Ohio, great things were expected of LeBron James from an early age. When he was just 17, the US sports media were already dubbing him the “Chosen One”. And he was soon justifying the hype, first with Cleveland Cavaliers, where between 2003 and 2010 he established himself as one of the stars of the NBA, the American professional basketball league. While nominally a forward, “King James” is the complete basketball player, able to excel in every position. He has always relished the opportunity to represent his country, rising to the occasion in the big tournaments. However, his international career started with disappointment. At the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, he was part of the USA team that suffered a 91-89 defeat at the hands of Argentina in the semi-final and had to settle for a bronze medal. Then, at the 2006 World Championships in Japan, the Americans fell at the same stage, this time to a dominant Greek team, who outscored them 101-95. It was a new low, but one which set Team USA on the road to recovery.
Redemption in Beijing
“I think that in Athens we didn’t have enough respect for what the Olympic Games represent and what it means to play for Team USA,” said James ahead of the next edition of the Games in Beijing, where, with Kobe Bryant, he would emerge as a leader of the so-called ‘Redeem Team’. Having set their sights firmly on gold, the Americans were completely dominant in Beijing, putting in a series of high octane performances en route to the final, in which they dispatched Spain 118-107 in spectacular fashion, with James contributing 14 points, six rebounds and three assists.
A year of triumphs
On 21 June 2012, James, by now wearing the colours of Miami Heat, claimed his first NBA title, and was named MVP (Most Valuable Player) of both the finals and the entire season. Buoyed by this success, he travelled to London for the 2012 Olympic Games, where Team USA once more found themselves pitched against Spain in the final. With little to separate the two teams as the clock ran down, the atmosphere at the Basketball Arena reached fever pitch, but with two minutes left, James conjured up two moments of brilliance. First he produced a phenomenal dunk, and then scored a three-pointer to put Team USA out of reach. The match finished 107-100, leaving James to celebrate a second Olympic gold. It also meant he was only the second player in history, after Michael Jordan in 1992, to complete a remarkable treble, by winning the NBA championship medal, the MVP award and an Olympic gold in a single year. A year later, James kept his winning streak going, helping Miami Heat secure a second consecutive NBA title, and once more being named the best player of the Finals.