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    LeBron James Pays Homage to the Mothers in His Life

    The NBA superstar credits his mother and his girlfriend for making him both the athlete and the family man he is today.

    LeBrons Joins the Cavaliers

    In 2003, when James was 18, he was the Cleveland Cavaliers' first pick in the NBA draft. Nike signed him to a $90 million contract before he played his first professional game. In his first season, he became the youngest player in NBA history to score 40 or more points in a single game. He was named "Rookie of the Year," the youngest player ever to receive that honor. And he was the youngest player to score 10,000 career points, a milestone he reached in the season before he flew to Beijing to represent this country on the 2008 U.S. Olympic basketball team. He has scored plenty more points since then.

    Gloria James laughs when she ponders where her son got the hoops gene. She grew up in a sports-loving family, and she recalls sitting on her grandfather's lap as a little girl, watching … baseball. The Cleveland Indians were her team. "He picked up basketball on his own," she says. "I can't take credit for that one."

    When he was 3 years old, she gave him a toy basketball set for Christmas. She watched him slam the ball into the plastic hoop, but she had no inkling what the future held.

    "I am not going to say I knew he was going to be a superstar," she says. "But you could tell he was fully determined. He wouldn't play with that toy set unless [the basketball hoop] was on the highest setting."

    Inside the Basketball Player's Mind

    As it turns out, determination and family support are key to athletic success. Because of that, athletes at the top of their game are often more emotionally healthy than the rest of us -- despite their pressure-cooker lives, says Shane Murphy, an associate professor at Western Connecticut State University, former sports psychologist for the U.S. Olympic Committee, and author of The Sport Psych Handbook: A Complete Guide to Today's Best Mental Training Techniques.

    What do they do to stay sane, and what can parents of budding superstars learn from them?

    Keep your cool . Star athletes "learn how to take criticism, to work with their team," says Murphy.

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