The Incredible Drive Of LeBron James

60 Minutes Camera Catches A Spontaneous, Incredible Shot That "One-Take" James Makes Look Easy

If you have never seen LeBron James play basketball, you have certainly seen him in television commercials or on the cover of national magazines.

According to no less an authority than the Harvard Business School, LeBron James is now the third-biggest name in the sports world, behind Tiger Woods and soccer star David Beckham, with earnings last year - on and off the court - of $40 million.

It already feels like he has been around for a long time, but he just turned 24 - a prodigy who's lived up to his hype

His team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, lists him as playing the position of small forward, which is a bit of a misnomer since he is big enough to be an NFL linebacker, only much quicker. He also wants to be the first billion dollar sports brand.

"What do people get when they buy into the LeBron James brand?" 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft asked James.

"You wanna buy in?" he replied, laughing. "I don't know. I mean you get me. It's just - it's all real."

"You know, I'm just 6'9" and 260. And just so happen to be very good at playing the game of basketball," James told Kroft.

The Quicken Arena in downtown Cleveland is literally the house that LeBron James built and where the Cavaliers superstar puts on the hottest show in the NBA.

For his opening act, he tosses a handful of chalk in the air - in a ritual that's become his personal trademark. It's his sixth season as a pro, and so far, his best.

He has continued to elevate his game from passing, to shot blocking; from his outside game to defense. Some are now debating whether he will become the best all-around player ever.

But when James is coming at you on the court, don't bother to "debate" - just get out of his way.

But of all the weapons in James' basketball arsenal, he thinks the most powerful may be his brain.

Asked what the strongest part of his game is, James told Kroft, "The way I approach the game mentally. I think, team first. It allows me to succeed, it allows my team to succeed. Because I'm always thinking about, 'How can I help my teammates become better?' I've always approached the game that way, ever since, I mean, I was a kid."

It's an unusual answer for a big time professional athlete. But then James is a smart, well-grounded young family man who is raising two boys of his own with his longtime girlfriend. Loyalty and togetherness are the threads that have held together his life, most of which has been spent within a 40-mile radius of Cleveland.

He was born, raised and still lives in Akron; it used to be known as the rubber capital of the world before the plants closed and moved away. Today it's known as the home of LeBron James.

"How's Akron doing these days?" Kroft asked.

"Just maintainin' baby. It's always a struggle growing up in Akron.
But we maintanin'," he replied.

James told Kroft he lived on "every side" of town, moving many times.

They were not the greatest neighborhoods, and he quickly learned a lot about life and survival, growing up in impoverished circumstances without a father.

Asked if he ever got in trouble, James said, "Never."

"Why, do you think? Lord knows there were lots of temptations," Kroft asked.

"Oh, absolutely. I don't know. I never walked down that path - I don't know why. I think the man above and my mother just led me in the right direction," James explained.

He told Kroft he gives his mother credit for that. "She get all the credit in the world for helping me become the man who I am today. Yep."

His mother, Gloria James, was 16 and unmarried when she had LeBron, and when her mother died at age 42, their situation became dire.

"We had pressures as far as where the hell we gonna sleep at," she recalled. "You know, from night, day to day, night to night. How we gonna eat from day to day, night to night?"

When things would get really bad, she would send him off to live with friends, usually one of his basketball coaches. But she was never far away. "I didn't reside in a steady home at the time. And I wanted him to, attend school until I could make our living situation better," she told Kroft.

Asked if that turned out to be a good decision, Gloria James said, "You tell me. It turned out to be a great decision."