Don’t forget LeBron’s astounding on-court legacy in Miami

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By the time LeBron James made The Decision, he was already the best basketball player in the world. He was 25 years old and had just won his second consecutive MVP award.

Ten years later, James is still at the top of the NBA, and that decision to take his talents to South Beach stands as arguably the most impactful transaction in NBA history for two reasons:

1. The GOAT conversation

  • In 2010, James displayed the potential to be the greatest player of all time. These days, it’s a legitimate debate thanks to the astounding résumé he built after his first Ohio departure. There were 10 NBA Finals in the 2010s, and James had a strong case as the single best player in eight of them (in a row). That’s one of the most impressive stats of this basketball era. The move to Miami made it possible.

2. Player empowerment

Looking back at James’ four years in Miami leaves little doubt that he made the right choice. On top of those two primary effects of his move, there’s a third, slightly underrated legacy: James entered an ideal environment to improve his game and fully took advantage of it.

He obsessed over improving his scoring efficiency numbers each year. After converting 47.6% of his shots in 2006-07, James worked to improve that number for seven straight seasons, embracing the emerging concept of efficiency that culminated in a ridiculous final two years in Miami, when James peaked from a pure scoring perspective.

Sure, James had become an efficient overall scorer prior to 2010, but he climbed to another plane entirely in Miami. And he did it through addition by subtraction.

His chosen teammates and coaches deserve some credit here. Simply being around a better talent pool enabled James to trim out the most difficult shots from his shot diet. To this day, his shot activity in his final two years in Miami remains his least active. They are the only two seasons in which James averaged fewer than 17 shots per 36 minutes.

And the shots he did take during those two seasons were cleaner than the ones he was hoisting up back in Cleveland. He shot fewer long 2s and dominated the paint. In the seven seasons before James got to Miami, around 35% of his shots came at least 10 feet from the rim but inside the 3-point line. That dipped to 30% in 2012-13 and slipped all the way to 25% in 2013-14. Since then, James’ midrange volume has continued to decline — all the way down to 17% of his attempts when the 2019-20 season was paused.

Opposing defenses couldn’t zero in on him like they did in Cleveland. Not only did Miami have Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, they also featured a rotating group of catch-and-shoot threats including Shane Battier, Mike Miller and Ray Allen. These sharpshooters helped Miami open up the floor and keep the middle clean for James.

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On June 20

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