The Psychology of LeBron James

Everyone knows LeBron James as one of the best basketball players to ever play the game. But who is LeBron outside of basketball? A mental health professional discusses the psychology of the superstar athlete.


LeBron James was born and raised in a single-parent household in Akron, Ohio. His mother, Gloria James, was only 16 years old when she had him, and therefore, could not always provide the financial stability he needed growing up. 


LeBron James poses with his trophy and his mother, Gloria, after being named the NBA Most Valuable Player.(AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)


As a result of the family’s financial struggles, LeBron and his mother had to move regularly. At one point, LeBron opted to move in with one of his coaches, which provided LeBron with the environmental consistency he needed to thrive. Regardless of LeBron’s difficult childhood circumstances, he grew up to become the multimillion-dollar brand he is today, proving his psychological strength. 


As an adult, LeBron continues to demonstrate resilience.


After failing to win an NBA Championship in the first 7 seasons of his NBA career, LeBron left the Cleveland Cavaliers to join forces with Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and the Miami Heat. It was there where he won two NBA Championships in four years with the Miami Heat, though time would prove that he would not be fully satisfied until he won one for his hometown, Cleveland.


LeBron eventually returned to the Cavaliers after his stint with the Heat and brought the state of Ohio its first professional championship in over half a century.



Playful Personality

If you’ve followed LeBron James over the years then you’d know that he’s just a big kid at heart. He enjoys having a good time and is never too cool to laugh and joke around with his friends. Watch the clip below to see the more playful side of LeBron.



Part of me wonders if LeBron’s childlike, playful antics are a direct result of him having to grow up too fast. As stated earlier, being raised by a single-mother meant that his father was never around, leading him to possibly feel the need to fill that void in their household structure. In addition, LeBron was in the spotlight at such a young age that he wasn’t able to enjoy the experience of just being a kid.


That said, it’s possible that LeBron may be unconsciously overcompensating for having to grow up so fast by being a silly adult.

Growth Oriented

LeBron has what us professionals in the field of psychology would call a growth mindset.


An individual with a growth mindset believes that effort and hard work are vital to success. LeBron embodies the growth mindset because of his endless commitment to improvement. This commitment is evident in the countless hours he spends honing his craft while always seeking out the next challenge. In fact, just this season, LeBron announced that he has made it a goal of his to shoot 80% from the free-throw line—a goal he has yet to attain in his career. He’s also been quoted on numerous occasions saying that he wants to be the first billionaire athlete.


Attention-Seeking Behavior

After observing him live on numerous occasions, it’s clear that LeBron loves being in the spotlight and has a strong desire to be “seen.” 



At no time is LeBron’s attention-seeking behavior on display more than during pre-game warm-ups. As he’s warming up, LeBron will complete a series of awe-inspiring dunks just to get a reaction out of fans. As the crowd “Oohs” and “Ahhs,” LeBron will look around the arena to soak in the attention and affirmation. His complex handshakes and signature “powder toss” pre-game routines are some of his other common attention-seeking behaviors.



In the world of social media, LeBron seeks attention via virtual “pats on the back.” He’s an avid user of the humblebrag and never misses an opportunity to share his career achievements with the world. Just this past February he posted a side by side photo of himself at his first and most recent All-Star Games with the caption, “14 consecutive starts (NBA record)…”




In January, his Instagram account showcased a post where he congratulated himself prior to surpassing the 30,000 career points mark by stating,


Wanna be one of the first to Congratulate you on this accomplishment/achievement tonight that you’ll reach! Only a handful has reach/seen it too and while I know it’s never been a goal of yours from the beginning try (please try) to take a moment for yourself on how you’ve done it! The House you’re about to be apart of has only 6 seats in it (as of now) but 1 more will be added and you should be very proud and honored to be invited inside.


A post shared by LeBron James (@kingjames) on


“More Than an Athlete”


Although some may argue that LeBron is just another arrogant athlete, the reality is he’s more than that. 



Yes, he has a tendency to be boastful and vain, but he also has a strong desire to help those that are less fortunate. He’s given away millions of dollars via his foundation and regularly uses his platform to speak out against injustices.


LeBron is a great role model for kids everywhere. He is living proof that regardless of your upbringing and shortcomings, you can make your dreams a reality with hard work and dedication.


After all, he is just a kid from Akron.



Listen in to Tarik Sloussi, LPC join the cast of the Shrink Tank Podcast discussing March Madness and the Psychology of Lebron James.


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The Psychology of LeBron James