Biography of a model. Gisele Bündchen (Photo credit: BarbieFantasies)In case you don't already know, LeBron James is basketball right now. He's the man up, as they say, and in his case, he goes up and up and up. King James (or the Chosen One), as they call him, became Rookie of the Year in 2004, then led his Cleveland Cavaliers to back-to-back playoff runs in 2006 and 2007, and the team's first-ever finals appearance in 2007. Last season, he averaged 27 points per game. Do you remember Michael Jordan? Well, LeBron is Michael Jordan, on a bigger scale (as in, bigger guy). What he lacks in pure Jordanian grace—rather than soar, LeBron seems to descend on the basket—he makes up for with strength and a dazzling sense of symmetry. Proportion is everything when it comes to King James. If you've ever sat in the stands as he brings a crowd to a points-induced frenzy, you know that for LeBron the crossover—that dexterous shift in direction, from one side of the court to the other—happens almost imperceptibly. His overall balance is apparent to his trainers, to his coaches, to sports fans, and, especially, to Rachel Johnson, who pays attention to his body for a living. "In my mind," says Johnson, his stylist, "he's not big at all, because even though he's tall and muscular and gorgeous and all of that, he's very well proportioned—the top half of his body and the bottom half match. To me, I'm dressing a man who's five feet eleven."
At 250 pounds, he is a towering six feet eight, but when not in the heat of competition, he somehow manages not to tower—so says Gisele Bündchen, the LeBron James of fashion modeling. "He doesn't really make you feel small, even though he is big," says Gisele, who, although she'd seen him play, and although her boyfriend, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, is a friend of his, had never met LeBron. "I think my leg is like the size of his shoe," she adds. Aside from a few shared attitudes—"She's all about business, and she's all about fun," LeBron says about Gisele. "That's why she's the best; she has fun while she's doing it"—they both admit that high school sports made them who they are. "What sports teaches you is not only respect for your body but that you have to be aware of your body, that you have to work with other people," says Gisele, who as a girl was an ardent volleyball player. "If you feel good, you play better, and if you feel better your self-worth will increase every day."
During a recent practice, LeBron looks and feels good, and in one of dozens of shooting drills, all goes well as he sinks ball after ball. And then—a bad shot, a little off. As the next ball reaches his hand, he pauses, just for a millisecond, as if hitting the reboot button. Next shot, and all the ones following—dead on. "It's all about refocusing yourself," he explains. "For me, it's such a habit, and I know what I'm doing out on the basketball court, so if I do something wrong, then I know how to switch the switch and turn it right back on, to readjust myself. Right there and then. It doesn't take me a day. It takes me just"—he snaps his fingers—"one play."