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NBA / Sep 13, 2013 / 3:30 pm

How LeBron James Became One Of The NBA’s Best Shooters

LeBron James vs. Paul Pierce

LeBron James vs. Paul Pierce (photo. Nike Basketball)

LeBron James was not born the best basketball player in the world. It’s taken over a decade of perfecting and honing his craft to become the player he is today: a four-time MVP and two-time NBA champion with the potential to only amass more hardware, more recognition, and more career-defining moments.

It’s what separates LeBron, a great player, from the good players of the NBA or any sport in general. The good player is aware they are good and stops there. The great player, however, is aware that they can be better and will not settle for simply being good.

There is a desire within the greatest players of their respective sports that has allowed them to become better. They are pessimists, constantly questioning what they lack, rather than focusing on the attributes they already possess. They are willing to make adjustments and sacrifices, willing to be outside their comfort zone in order to learn, and willing to learn from their mistakes.

A great player is eaten inside by their mistakes, so much so they don’t want to repeat the same mistake. They want to be prepared for any circumstance and want to own the moment when they encounter those circumstances again. Nobody was born with the attributes that currently characterize them. One can only work to achieve the goals.

LeBron James was not born as one of the NBA’s top jump shooters. He became one. When he entered the league in 2003 as a heavily-hyped 18-year-old, his jumper was raw and still needed great improvement.

He had to become more than a freak athlete and a name. The LeBron James of St. Vincent-St. Mary’s fame could not be the same person as LeBron James the professional basketball player. Even as an 18-year-old, LeBron recognized that the player he was, a No. 1 draft pick drawing MJ comparisons, would not be suitable to achieve his expectations of what he wanted to become.

Over the course of his 10-year career, LeBron has steadily improved not just his jump shooting but shot-selection, as well. Take a look at his jumper percentages over the course of his career — including postseason totals — per Basketball-reference.com:

2003-04: 32 percent on 996 jumpers; 67 percent of shots are jumpers
2004-05: 35 percent on 1131 jumpers; 67 percent of shots are jumpers
2005-06: 36 percent on 1351 jumpers; 63 percent of shots are jumpers
2006-07: 34 percent on 1332 jumpers; 66 percent of shots are jumpers
2007-08: 33 percent on 1205 jumpers; 63 percent of shots are jumpers
2008-09: 37 percent on 1229 jumpers; 64 percent of shots are jumpers
2009-10: .375 percent on 1115 jumpers; 64 percent of shots are jumpers
2010-11: 40 percent on 1247 jumpers; 67 percent of shots are jumpers
2011-12: .395 percent on 1076 jumpers; 64 percent of shots are jumpers
2012-13: 42 percent on 1080 jumpers; 60 percent of shots are jumpers

Obviously the 2012-13 season is the year catching your eye. Not only is LeBron shooting the highest percentage of his career on jumpers, but the percentage of his shots that were jumpers took a significant drop. The influence of having teammates such as Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh by his side paid off, but it wasn’t immediate as 67 percent of LeBron’s shots in his first season with Miami were still jumpers.

The most startling stat is how LeBron took as many jumpers this past year as he did in the lockout-shortened season, which featured 16 less games than the usual 82-game regular season. Coincidentally, the past two years of jumpers playing less of a role in his offense occurred after James and Erik Spoelstra met up during the summer of 2011 and decided that a conscious effort was needed by LeBron to take each possession one at a time. There shouldn’t be any need for settling when he can get to the rim with ease and has teammates who can take the jump shot burden off his shoulders.

The Heat want to maximize the potential of their MVP. They didn’t want him reduced to an average shooter, rather someone who would look at a low-percentage shot and see it as a last-second option.

He’s bought into it, developing a more refined post game. However, just because he was going to take fewer jumpers, it didn’t mean he would not continue to improve on it. He knew a time would come where he’d need it.

Well, didn’t the San Antonio Spurs employ that strategy throughout their NBA Finals? By keeping their players close to the paint, they cut off LeBron’s drives and his primary mode of facilitation, and by giving him a cushion to shoot they constantly had him second-guessing himself.

For some unknown reason, LeBron didn’t use his elite-level jumper until the final games of the series. It wasn’t until Game 7 where he truly took advantage of the space the Spurs gave him, punishing the lax defense with 5-of-10 three-point shooting.

Since we’re on the topic of three-point shooting, take a look at his percentages over the years.

2003-04: 29 percent on 217 three-pointers
2004-05: 35 percent on 308 threes
2005-06: 33 percent on 379 threes
2006-07: 32 percent on 310 threes
2007-08: .315 percent on 359 threes
2008-09: 34 percent on 384 threes
2009-10: 33 percent on 387 threes
2010-11: 33 percent on 279 threes
2011-12: 36 percent on 149 threes
2012-13: 41 percent on 254 threes

Now wait just one minute! What on earth happened in the 2012-13 season? After an entire career of shooting no better than 36 percent from beyond the arc, LeBron suddenly becomes a legitimate three-point threat with a percentage on par with the likes of Dirk Nowitzki and Klay Thompson? I have my theories.

Keep reading to hear what influence Ray Allen had on LeBron…

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  • Bravo

    You have no clue what your citing… taking less jumpers with a smaller sample size of course your going to hit a higher percentage… if you take 10 jumpers and I take 1 jumper how do you think its going to skew….. lbj fans are the worst….

  • John Nock

    Um you are really stupid man. Technically it would be harder to achieve a higher percentage for you if you only shot one shot and i shot 10 that is unless you made that one shit which is not likely. Kobe fans are the dumbest. Kobe fans logic states shoot the ball a thousand times a year and you will be the greatest player ever, even if you shoot 40 percent. BRAVO you are a dumbass!

  • Bravo

    Keep watching sportscenter young man. .. same kid who thinks skip bayless is God

  • Shareef Hall

    If Kobe fans logic is to shoot 1000 times, the’re right because five rings back that up you idiot. Do you think he actually shot a better percentage just because of his shot selection. 95% of the league leave him wide-open, did you watch the Spurs series? I guess not. And don’t ever compare him to Kobe MJ or magic because they would never cowards. They wanted to play against the best not with the best. Lebron left his OWN HOMETOWN high and dry to play with 2 superstars and superstar shooters. You measure a man in time of controversy, and Lebrick literally ran.

  • Rashon Wilson

    Considering they have always played with the best I don’t see what’s wrong with LeBrons decision to play with dwade (a hall of famer) and chris bosh (an all star). Let me see michael Jordan had scottie pippen (a hall of famer) dennisrodman(a hall of famer) and bj armstrong(another all star) and steve kerr just to hit clutch shots here and there. So if jordan didn’t play with the best idk what he played with because his team is more stacked than the miami heat. I won’t even bring kobes teams into comparison it isn’t needed. Lebron on the cavs didn’t even have a all star on his team….. but he was expected to to win against two hall of famers that being tony parker and tim duncan that’s just insane. Michael had help kobe had help and now LeBron is. Oh by the way the year mj retired the bulls won 55 games instead of 57 and still made the playoffs and lost in the semifinals. So mjs team was good but like every championshipteam they need their superstar to lead them because without lLeBron I must ne honest dwade would not have 3 rings he doesn’t play the same anymore he is declining faster than expected. But everyone has help

  • Chris Callihan

    lmao nice insight

  • Shareef Hall

    Man your ignoring the fact that Jordan didn’t leave his hometown to play somewhere else. If the Bulls executives drafted and got players, that is great for Jordan. But Scottie and Dennis made themselves all stars on that team. Dwade and Bosh were already all stars that agreed to take paycuts to play with one another. Who else has done that? Only old as Paul Pierce and the rest of em. Dwade, Bosh, and Lebron were in their Primes while making this agreement. Your right dont mention Kobe. He had Shaq, yes. But he got Gasol, adjusted and one back to back. Come one man. Ray Allen was one of the greatest players in the league at one point, and will be a hall of famer. Mike Miller and Shane are some of the greatest shooters not only in the league but history. Mario Chalmers is a great shooter also. One more thing that sets Kobe, MJ, and Magic. They didn’t flop every single time someone touches them. And another thing, Lebron gets away with travels the most in the league. Kobe and MJ every incredible foot work. It’ll take one devastating injury for Lebron to be avg.

  • Shareef Hall

    My fault for the typos.

  • Shareef Hall

    One more thing, if you think he is the greatest player right now. Did you watch the NBA finals. They had BORIS DIAW guard him at one point. A big body with a little bit of quickness was able to lock him up. If it were the greats, they would have made the Spurs pay every possession. That should of been insulting to LB, but he should of took advantage, but he couldn’t even score.