Total Recall: LeBron's mighty mind

Miami Heat

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."

It's a midgame timeout during a 2013-14 regular-season game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, long before James decided to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the national television broadcast means it's longer than usual.

Erik Spoelstra is sitting in front of his Heat players on the bench as he traces a play on his dry-erase board with a fading blue marker. The players -- Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen and Udonis Haslem -- are draped in towels, holding cups of water, waiting for Spoelstra to present his play. James is quiet, holding clippers, working on cleaning up the nails on his left hand.

Only he's not.

"No," James says to Spoelstra, reaching his hand out and touching the board on Spoelstra's lap, pointing to something. "He has to be here, like this." James traces his finger along the surface. He has been in this situation before against the Pacers. The Heat have tried this play. He has an instant alteration in mind. James is animated now, having forgotten his nails, as he presents his case for why this way will work.


I started to realize how important [my memory] could be years later, probably when I was in high school. And then, eventually, I realized that it can get me into trouble.

" - LeBron James

Spoelstra grabs his eraser.

Another huddle now, earlier in the season, and the Heat are having troubling dealing with pick-and-roll coverage. A candid discussion has broken out among players and coaches about what changes to make in the middle of the game.

"Let's do it this way," James tells his teammates, "like we did in Game 3 against Dallas."

The change is made. Later, Spoelstra will find himself reviewing the moment, searching his memories, and he'll realize the Heat did indeed play that way against Dallas. "I was like, c'mon, that was from a game three years ago," Spoelstra says, before raising his fingers and making a crisp snap. "And he recalled it just like that."

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