ESPN's Brian Windhorst has a new profile on LeBron; it's good, and ostensibly about how LeBron uses his uncommonly good memory to enhance to his more obvious physical talent. It's full of relevant basketball examples and wide-eyed onlookers. It's also front-loaded with some stories that are actually more impressive.
"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.
LeBron is probably the only person on the planet who memorized all the moves in Shaq Fu. I played that game. It sucked. It goes on:
"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."
This kind of all-knowing character is actually even more impressive than the freak stories about LeBron remembering who was guarding whom on some random play, or where he took a shot five years prior out of a timeout, or who's going to run where and how on a defensive scheme he last saw three years ago. Players have long memories for this—stories about other guys, like John Wall, have started to be passed around since LeBron as a hard drive stories have come into vogue. Even half-decent poker players can rattle off with accuracy a gross number of hands they played 10 years ago. But memorizing everything, down to special moves in shitty games and your dumb friends' dumb Madden tendencies, is equal parts scary genius and psycho competitive, at least as much about any story you've heard about Jordan cheating at cards. LeBron's fable is being so smart it's like he was cheating.