The Memory Never Forgets: LeBron James and the Gift/Curse of Eidetic Memory


I should start off by saying that I am so very not a sports guy. And even I have heard of LeBron James. I remember him making a lot of noise back when he was just a teenager, and his name was being bandied about as the next greatest basketball player since Jordan. And from what I can gather, he’s very much at the top of his game.

What I didn’t know was that James has a ridiculously good memory. In the article Total Recall: LeBron’s Mighty Mind, I learned that it appears James has a form of eidetic memory that allows him to remember details from many years ago.

“I can usually remember plays in situations a couple of years back — quite a few years back sometimes,” James says. “I’m able to calibrate them throughout a game to the situation I’m in, to know who has it going on our team, what position to put him in.”

Again, totally not a sports fan here. But the stories and details regarding James memory are just absolutely fascinating. I had no idea the guy could recall so much! If he’s playing against a team, he seemingly remembers what plays they favor, what a certain opponent did in a previous game against him, etc.

But his memory also extends beyond basketball. According to teammate Chris Bosh:

“We’ll be watching a football game and he’ll be like, ‘Yeah, that cornerback was taken in the fourth round of the 2008 draft from Central Florida,’ or something. And I’ll be like, ‘How do you know that?’ And he’ll be like, ‘I can’t help it.'”

I’m curious – was this a known thing, when LeBron James first began to acquire his fame? The man is incredibly talented physically, no doubt about that. But this memory thing really just blows me away.

Of course, there is a drawback to his incredible memory. Being able to remember all the good means you also are able to remember all the bad. And it seems that it’s a struggle for James to not let this portion of his memory work to his detriment.

When an entire life is perpetually available, that life exists, in a sense, forever in present tense. And sifting through a perpetual and onrushing flood of memories? That’s apparently less fun than it sounds.

It’s hard, after all, to erase bad memories when you can’t erase any of them at all.

I found this article quite engaging, and I now really look at LeBron James in a very different way. I think most athletes have a lot of mental ability (in addition to their physical skills), but this kind of recall is just crazy to me.

Which leads you to wonder – if this is how good he is, with all his memories, on the court… what would he be like as a coach?

[via Longform, CC Photo via Keith Allison]

Related:
Michael Jordan Has Not Left the Building
Secrets of a Mind-Gamer: The Story of an Unlikely Mnemonist
Dan Deacon, True Thrush: Participants Attempt to Re-Create a 13 Second Sequence From Memory
Knuckleball! A Baseball Documentary Recommendation From Someone Who Doesn’t Follow Baseball

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