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LeBron James apparently remembers everything

Jul 23, 2014, 9:47 AM EDT

Miami Heat v San Antonio Spurs - Game Five Getty Images

LeBron James is bigger than most of his opponents.

He’s faster than most of those opponents.

He’s stronger than most of his opponents.

[RELATED: LeBron, Wade still tight]

That’s enough to make LeBron a successful player, but it doesn’t fully explain his standing as an all-time great.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN details another reason: LeBron’s exceptional memory. As LeBron explains:

“It’s allowed me to see things before they happen, put guys in position, kind of read my teammates, knowing who is out of rhythm, who is in rhythm, knowing the score, the time, who has it going on the other end, knowing their likes and dislikes and being able to calibrate all that into a game situation,” James says. “That’s very challenging, but it comes natural. It can help your team out.”

Sometimes, these traits get overblown. I’m sure LeBron sees the floor very well, but many NBA players see the floor very well. Can we, as non-elite basketball players, really distinguish between what LeBron does and what others do?

Chris Bosh, via Windhorst, provides perspective:

“Look, we’re all professional basketball players, so when LeBron remembers something from a basketball game, even if it’s from a few years ago, it doesn’t exactly blow me away,” Bosh says. “But it’s when he remembers other stuff, like stuff he shouldn’t even know, where you’re like, ‘What?!’ We’ll be watching a football game and he’ll be like, ‘Yeah, that cornerback was taken in the fourth round of the 2008 draft from Central Florida,’ or something. And I’ll be like, ‘How do you know that?’ And he’ll be like, ‘I can’t help it.'”

Of course, there are drawbacks to LeBron’s mental approach. Sometimes, he thinks too much as his mind is flooded with memories:

It’s June 2013, and James is riding back to the team hotel after Game 3 of the NBA Finals in San Antonio, with the Spurs having crushed the Heat by 36 points to take a 2-1 series lead. James was 7-of-21 shooting this night and in the midst of a poor Finals performance. Over the first three games, he was shooting just 38 percent and averaging 16.6 points, stunningly low numbers after what has been inarguably the finest season of his career. On the bus, he turns and confides to a friend.

“I’m thinking too much,” James says, “about 2007.”

I suggest you read Windhorst’s full article if you’re interested in learning more about this underexposed aspect of LeBron’s greatness.

[MORE: LeBron sent cupcakes to Akron neighbors to apologize for commotion caused by free agency]

  1. 4thquartermagic - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:04 AM

    Photographic memory like Peyton manning.

    Just not fair to the rest of the league.

    • lj312chicago - Jul 23, 2014 at 12:55 PM

      The media tells us we have no right to rip on LeBron…..then every media outlet goes and reports these BS stories that can apply to so many people in sports/NBA but they only apply them to LBJ….it’s a joke…..3 weeks ago the nation was ripping him apart saying he can’t carry a team…then he goes to a crappier team in Cleveland…and OMG he’s such a good person! Cleveland has to be the favorite to win the ring next year! …….its pathetic and the media doesn’t help his cause by writing these stupid articles……if LBJ has such a good memory….that means he’ll never forget the 2 bronze medals he brought home for team USA (now that’s just pathetic)…and his 2-5 record in the NBA finals………think on that LeMemory

      • dablakdrphil - Jul 23, 2014 at 7:58 PM

        He brought from what I can remember 1 bronze medal on a 2004 US Team when him, Melo and Wade was just completing their rookie year and neither players didn’t see much playing time. The next two olympics he helped bring home two gold medals

    • peralez2383 - Jul 24, 2014 at 12:41 AM

      must be a nightmare if you can’t forget the utter domination and history making beating usher by my SPURS

  2. patsmiley - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:15 AM

    I hope he remembers what a garbage front office/management the Cavs have

    • Hard On For Harden - Jul 23, 2014 at 11:06 AM

      Yes, because Pat Riley didn’t merely just fill out the roster with veterans chasing a ring in the twilight of their careers, unearthed tons of hidden gems in the second round and D-League, and illustrated a deep knowledge of the salary cap by swinging multiple team trades to maintain flexibility around the big 3.

      • patsmiley - Jul 23, 2014 at 2:05 PM

        why don’t we look at the Heat offseason after Lebron left and the Cavs offseason after Lebron left. Heat are predicted to be 3-5 seed in the East. The Cavs went into the lottery 4 straight years. But you’re right, Riley has no clue what he’s doing.

      • Hard On For Harden - Jul 23, 2014 at 3:32 PM

        Riley drafted Wade in 2003 and cleared cap space to sign LeBron and Bosh in 2010 after receiving a wink and nudge to do so. He then convinced a few players to hang out in Miami, FL. Genius, freaking personnel genius. It was crazy to see those powers at work when he ditched the team in 2008 to scout Michael Beasley.

      • patsmiley - Jul 23, 2014 at 3:50 PM

        @hard on for harden

        How does him convincing people to hang out in Miami make him a bad GM. Beasley was highly regarded coming out of college. He was supposed to be a sure shot of a pick. So one bad draft pick trumps the 3 championship teams he’s built in his time in Miami. Again, please tell me how the last 4 lottery picks have helped the Cavs. Funny how you knock Riley for doing the same thing your boy Morey is trying to do (if you are indeed a Rockets fan). I don’t understand how acquiring some of the best players in the league (i.e. Lebron, Bosh, Shaq in 06) via trade/free agency makes you an incompetent GM

    • calkinsrob - Jul 23, 2014 at 11:10 AM

      no reason to dislike this comment. The cavs have been in the lottery every year since lebron left. they were the reason he left and things have not changed. Their front office is kind of a joke.

    • lj312chicago - Jul 23, 2014 at 12:57 PM

      apparently no one…and I mean no one…remembers the dysfunctional diva filled locker room that couldn’t even break .500 last year….yes adding the best player in the world helps….at the end of the day though….ITS STILL THE SAME CAVS TEAM AS LAST YEAR……$20 LBJ gets in a “fight” with Kyrie by February…..

  3. mightbegoingtohellforthis - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:26 AM

    Now Lebron James has esp? This circle jerk is getting tiresome.

  4. mp4philly - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    People always talk about pro athletes adjusting to life after retirement. The real question is what will Windhorst do after LeBron retires. He’ll have no reason to live.

    • titansbro - Jul 23, 2014 at 11:03 AM

      Twinkies aren’t a reason to live? Yeah, he’s screwed.

  5. remyje - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:52 AM

    but you still didn’t tell me what kind of toothpaste he uses!!!

  6. titansbro - Jul 23, 2014 at 11:02 AM

    This is called basketball IQ or court awareness, all the greats have it. Even some guys who were not so great.

    This really isn’t surprising to me in the least.

    • antistratfordian - Jul 23, 2014 at 3:09 PM

      It isn’t basketball IQ or court awareness. You don’t have to remember plays from 7 years ago to be a high IQ player.

      This is something beyond that. Obviously it doesn’t make him unbeatable, but it gives him an edge, which is probably why he’s led teams to the Finals 5 times in only 9 playoff trips.

      Coach K marveled at his brain during his time with Team USA:

      In his first summer as national team coach in 2006, Krzyzewski said he became aware of what he calls James’ ‘profound intelligence’ when he watched the players play cards to the time on long trips overseas. He noticed that James followed the card game better than the others and always anticipated the next move.

      Krzyzewski told James he admired his mathematical mind, the way he seemed capable of instant calculations.

      That led Coach K to say this about James in 2012:

      He’s not smart. He’s brilliant. And I don’t like to use that word. LeBron is brilliant. His recall, I compare him to somebody who can play an instrument by feel.

      And also this:

      You are the most intelligent basketball player I have ever coached.

      In short, his level of mental acuity is unique, and not something that all the greats possess in equal measure.

  7. tribefever - Jul 23, 2014 at 11:30 AM

    He also leaps tall buildings and is faster than a speeding bullet.

  8. mungman69 - Jul 23, 2014 at 11:38 AM

    LeBron better have ESP when it comes to the Cavs management. That management could mess up a male orgasim

  9. cantonbound13 - Jul 23, 2014 at 12:36 PM

    Pat Riley is pissed! Hahaha!

  10. jadaruler - Jul 23, 2014 at 1:53 PM

    Lol @ people getting mad at too many Lebron stories. He’s the face of the damn league. Same thing happened with Magic, Bird, and MJ.

    His attention to detail and memory are my favorite aspects of his game. He can run down a team’s roster like nobody’s business. I remember before the Heat played Indiana the first time, Lebron praised Stephenson before most of the media knew who he was.

  11. watchfullhose - Jul 23, 2014 at 2:19 PM

    Man! You 7 remaining heat fans sure are a bunch of crybabies.

  12. antistratfordian - Jul 23, 2014 at 3:24 PM

    It’s about time someone wrote about this. I’ve been talking about LeBron’s mental capacity for some years now. People think LBJ’s dominance is due mostly to his size or athleticism – no, it is all about how his brain processes information.

    Below, the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network quoted a few users for a small “Voices” piece in 2012, and a comment of mine happened to get selected. It speaks to this topic:

  13. ProBasketballPundit - Jul 23, 2014 at 3:31 PM

    I empathize with LeBron for this reason. I have a great memory and very active mind but trust me it’s more bad for sports than it is good. You overthink everything and can’t just experience what’s happening. I long for anoesis.

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