There’s no shortage of material for a biographer to chronicle the current Los Angeles Laker, and Jeff Benedict’s comprehensive new LeBron does a masterful job of shaping that material into a cohesive and propulsive whole ... Benedict clearly likes James, but he’s been around long enough... to steer far clear of hagiography ... The author’s reporting here is exhaustive; he interviewed almost 250 people for the book. The public record on James is voluminous, and Benedict used it extensively. However, this is no clip job ... LeBron isn’t just great sportswriting, it’s also vivid narrative journalism ... Benedict’s greatest feat here might be the way he cuts through both the public hysteria surrounding James and the superstar’s own protective field to paint a portrait of a man in full.
Benedict didn’t interview James directly for the book, but that fact drives home one of the book’s main themes — James built his empire by surrounding himself with an inner circle of close friends, all of whom he met before adulthood ... Given the fact that James didn’t speak to Benedict for the book, some critics may decry the armchair psychology in these pages. But James’ life has certainly not been unexamined. He has spoken at length about growing up fatherless, the fierce loyalty he feels toward his mother, and how grateful he is to coaches and neighbors ... LeBron makes a more compelling argument about just how remarkable it is that a player of James’ magnitude has lived a scandal-free life, and in fact, has focused his platform and celebrity on meaningful issues like Black Lives Matter or inner city education.
James did not speak to him either, but Benedict is good at reproducing his thoughts and even some of the scenes of his life from a composite of James’s published interviews and extensive interviews with the other people involved. The result is a skilfully confected and readable book that does very well with James’s childhood and loses its way the closer we get to his present-day self ... Veers uncomfortably into hagiography the closer we get to the present day ... Benedict himself seems to lose interest in the basketball as the book goes on. He dispenses with James’s last championship season in LA in a few short paragraphs and spends much more prose on his evolution as a social activist.
At over 500 pages, LeBron is an appropriately epic portrait ... The particulars of LeBron’s life and career... are thoroughly fleshed out in Benedict’s crisp style and skillfully-set scenes. The author also illustrates the many ways in which LeBron has changed the game both on and off the court ... While LeBron has been in the public eye for decades, Benedict provides the most comprehensive profile yet.
Benedict describes this path in (overly) deep detail—James doesn’t make his NBA debut till nearly halfway through the book. But from there, the narrative is a well-paced account of James’ on-court ambitions and struggles with how to wield his celebrity ... James’ roles as world-class athlete and media phenomenon are intertwined, and the author ably captures both elements.