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LeBron James' greatest weapon is his brain

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He has unbelievable recall:

Playing video games with LeBron James is so annoying.

"When we were growing up we used to play this fighting game on the Sega Genesis called Shaq Fu," says Brandon Weems, James' lifelong friend. "LeBron was the only one who had memorized all the moves and so he'd win every time. We all thought he definitely was cheating."

Memorizing all the manipulations with the joystick and the A, B and C buttons back in the days before it could be Googled -- the Inferno Kick was down, toward the player, with the C button pressed, but only with the "Shaq" character, mind you -- is one thing. When James started adding the pathological layers as he got older, that's when he really started messing with his friends.

"When you play Madden with him now you have to be careful which teams you take, because he will know what your game plans were in the past when you've played with him and he'll pick the opposing team knowing what plays you want to run," says Weems, now an assistant basketball coach at Oakland University.

"You better save your favorite play, too, because he'll remember what you ran before in situations and be ready for it. Your only hope is to save it until the end and try to surprise him with it."

He has incredible memory:

It's the middle of February now, in a game against the Golden State Warriors, and James is walking the ball down the floor with the seconds running out. The Heat are down two points and he's dribbling the final nine seconds off the clock with ace defender Andre Iguodalaguarding him. James fakes a drive, then steps back and to his left in time to fire in a game-winning 3-pointer over Iguodala's fingers with 0.1 seconds left.

In the jovial postgame locker room, it's pointed out to James by a reporter that almost exactly five years earlier, he'd won a game with a jumper at Oracle Arena at the buzzer from virtually the same exact spot at the same basket.

"Not really," James says in response. "That one was probably about six feet closer to the baseline and inside the 3-point arc. It was over Ronny Turiaf, I stepped back on him but I crossed him over first and got him on his heels. I'm sure of it. It was down the sideline a few feet. It was a side out-of-bounds play; this one we brought up."

Within moments, James is watching that very 2009 highlight on a cell phone while icing his aching feet. And indeed, there it is -- the crossover step-back on Turiaf from, oh, about six feet to the left of the shot he'd just hit over Iguodala. Right along the sideline inside the 3-point line. A side out-of-bounds play. Just like he said.

He's an athletic powerhouse, ambidextrous, studies history, and has that memory:

He is 6-foot-8 or so, and 260 pounds or so. He has striking athleticism even while in a crowd of some of the greatest athletes on the planet. He has a strong work ethic that manifests itself in expansive summer programs that are at the heart of the steady development of his game over the years. He is ambidextrous, playing right-handed but doing most other things in his life left-handed, a trait that has helped him become one of the great scorers in league history. He has an expansive interest in the history of the game, which he uses both as a teaching resource and to generate motivation in a time where he has very few true contemporaries.

There is all of that. But there is also one other quality, one that James himself has somehow managed to keep hidden for the past decade, despite our seemingly insatiable desire to uncover -- and wring dry -- most everything about the man: the memory. It is perhaps one of James' greatest gifts. And while those who watch James are typically impressed with how he uses his speed and skill to generate highlight plays, those who know James or spend a lot of time with him are more frequently blown away by the almost curious power of his mind.

The memory. It can inform him. It can engage him. It can turn on him. It can attack him. It can, he says, hinder him in ways that are far harder to treat than a sprained ankle. And learning to control it has been a fight as great as any other in his career.

"When I was a kid my coaches started to say to me that I remembered things that happened in games from a few tournaments back -- and that surprised them," James says. "I started to realize how important that could be years later, probably when I was in high school. And then, eventually, I realized that it can get me into trouble."

On the subject of photographic memory the article is philosophical:

If there's one thing that can be said about the study of the human brain -- and especially the field of memory -- it's that even today, it's notable less for what is known than for how much is not known. The workings of our head-sponges remain, for the most part, a mystery. But if there are areas of consensus in the field of neurology, one of them is that the notion of "photographic memory," in which a person can take mental snapshots and recall every detail at a later time, has never been proved to exist.

This is not to say that James is lying when he describes his total recall. The evidence appears strong that his memory banks are loaded up like Fort Knox. Rather, what James might be describing appears more likely to be a version of "eidetic memory," which is, essentially, the medical term for crazy, crazy freakish recall. And although eidetic memory appears to take many forms -- some claim to be able to "read" pages in their mind, others to "replay" their memories as if pressing play on streaming video -- those who claim the ability often share one trait: They are as cursed by it as they are blessed by it.

When an entire life is perpetually available, that life exists, in a sense, forever in present tense. And sifting through a perpetual and onrushing flood of memories? That's apparently less fun than it sounds.

It's hard, after all, to erase bad memories when you can't erase any of them at all.

It's a curse to be able to remember every demon and every failure:

Consider what you know of the 2011 NBA Finals. And now consider it, instead, like this: In what will likely be remembered as the low point of his career, James is miserable for several games against the Dallas Mavericks -- including a vitally important Game 4 collapse when he somehow scores just eight points in 46 minutes. At times during that game it appears as if James is in a trance.

"What is he thinking?" the basketball world wonders.

James -- with two titles and counting, and four straight trips to the Finals -- can admit today what he's thinking in 2011: He's thinking of everything. Everything good, and everything bad. In 2011, he isn't just playing against the Mavs; he's also battling the demons of a year earlier, when he failed in a series against the Boston Celtics as the pressure of the moment beat him down. It's Game 5 of the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals, and it is, to this point, perhaps the most incomprehensible game of James' career. His performance is so lockjawed, so devoid of rhythm, the world crafts its own narrative, buying into unfounded and ridiculous rumors because they seem more plausible than his performance.

James, though, never fully deals with any of that. Instead, he changes teams. Changes cities. Changes coaches. Changes owners. Changes teammates. Changes uniforms. Changes climate. Wipe the slate clean, and maybe, for once, he can leave the past behind.

Instead, when it all happens again a year later, James' recall turns against him, yet again, like an awful sequel to an awful original movie -- everything happening out of James' control, the awful computer in his head winning the inner monologue.

"There are a lot of things that go through my mind during a game," James says. "Sometimes I cloud my mind too much. I get to thinking about the game too much instead of just playing."

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