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Looking back at LeBron James' career as he turns 35

Lakers star has already crafted an enduring legacy in the NBA

Jeff Case,

Including the playoffs, no one in the NBA scored more points than LeBron James in the last 10 years. He started the decade 124th on the league’s all-time scoring list. He’s now about to pass Kobe Bryant for No. 3 and No. 2 Karl Malone and No. 1 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are well within reach.

As he turns 35 today, James is fresh off being named the Associated Press’ male athlete of the decade. To date, he has three NBA championships, three Finals MVPs, four NBA MVPs, 15 All-NBA selections, 15 All-Star selections, the 2003-04 Rookie of the Year award and three All-Star MVPs, too. He has left an indelible mark on three NBA franchises — the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Miami Heat and now, the Los Angeles Lakers — while piling up all manner of statistical milestones along the way.

There are the eight straight Finals trips, the ending of Cleveland’s championship drought and so many more moments that have made James an icon in NBA lore. Here’s a look back at some of the plays and on-court moments that marked James’ success in each of those stops.

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LeBron’s first Cleveland era

When: 2003-04 to 2009-10

LeBron’s regular-season stats: 27.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 7.0 apg, 1.7 spg

LeBron’s playoff stats: 29.3 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 7.3 apg, 1.6 spg, 1.0 bpg (2006-10)

LeBron’s championships: Zero (lost 4-0 to Spurs in 2007 Finals)

The buzz: From winning Rookie of the Year to amassing the first two of his five career MVPs, LeBron showed glimpses of what he was capable of during his first stint with the Cavaliers. Although he’d fail to taste championship glory, his efforts to merely get the Cavs to the 2007 Finals — specifically his epic Game 5 against the Pistons in the East finals — was the stuff of legend.

LeBron’s Heat era

When: 2010-11 to 2013-14

LeBron’s regular-season stats: 26.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 6.7 apg, 1.7 spg

LeBron’s playoff stats: 26.9 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 5.7 apg, 1.8 spg

LeBron’s championships: Two (beat Thunder 4-1 in 2012 Finals; beat Spurs 4-3 in 2013 Finals)

The buzz: The 2010s for James started with “The Decision,” the widely criticized televised announcement of his choice to leave Cleveland for Miami. He was with the Heat for four years, went to the NBA Finals all four times with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, finally won the title in 2012 and led the way in a Game 7 win over San Antonio to go back-to-back the following year.

LeBron’s second Cleveland era

When: 2014-15 to 2017-18

LeBron’s regular-season stats: 26.1 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 8.0, 1.4 spg

LeBron’s playoff stats: 30.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 8.2 apg, 1.8 spg, 1.2 bpg

LeBron’s championships: One (beat Warriors 4-3 in 2016 Finals)

The buzz: James returned home in 2014, took Cleveland to four consecutive finals, then led the Cavaliers to the 2016 title and came up with one of the biggest plays of his life by pulling off a chase-down block of Golden State’s Andre Iguodala in the final seconds of Game 7 of that series.

LeBron’s first season with Lakers

When: 2018-19 to present

LeBron’s regular-season stats: 26.5 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 9.2 apg, 1.3 spg (through Dec. 30, 2019)

LeBron’s playoff stats: Lakers did not qualify for 2019 playoffs

The buzz: The legacy James will leave with the Lakers is still being written, but he’s doing what he can so far in 2019-20 to make up for a disappointing start to his opening campaign there. Perhaps the lone bright spot in that 2018-19 season (when the Lakers went 37-45) was James passing Michael Jordan for fourth on the all-time scoring list. Already this season, James is leading the league in assists (10.8 apg) and is in the thick of the Kia MVP chase, too.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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