Career With Cleveland Cavaliers
With his impressive record, it was no surprise that James was the first player picked in the 2003 NBA Draft. The Cleveland Cavaliers signed the powerful young forward, and he proved to be a valuable addition to the then-struggling franchise. The team had ended the previous season in eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
During the 2003-04 season, James made history when he became the first member of the Cavalier franchise to win the NBA Rookie of the Year Award. He also became the youngest player — at only 20 years old — to receive this honor. Additionally, James, averaging 20 points per game at this time, became one of only three rookies to accomplish this feat, putting him in the same company as Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson.
James continued to excel professionally in the NBA the following season, upping his average points per game to 27.2. He made NBA history again in 2005, when he became the youngest player to score more than 50 points in one game.
In 2006, James helped his team defeat the Washington Wizards in the first round of playoff action. From there, the Cavaliers took on the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference semifinals. James scored an average of 26.6 per game in this postseason matchup, but it wasn’t enough to secure victory for his team. While his team wasn’t at the top of the rankings, James himself continued to receive special recognition for his abilities.
In 2006, James reached a new contract agreement with the Cavaliers. The team proved to be stronger competitors the following season, defeating Detroit to win the Eastern Conference. In the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, however, the Cavaliers lost their championship bid in four consecutive games.
During the 2007-08 season, James continued to help the Cavaliers improve their standing in the Eastern Conference. The team made it to the semifinals, where they were defeated by the Boston Celtics in seven games. In terms of individual performance, James had a stellar year, outperforming such rival players as Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson by scoring an average of 30 points per game, the highest average in the NBA regular season.