Bill Simmons has an article wondering if LeBron James is a genius, talking about his decision-making and tacit understanding of basketball.
When LBJ participated at the NBA combine as an 18 year old, he was 6’7 1/4 inches tall. Some sources say he has since grown to 6’8″. Since 2000, NHANES has measured heights on 6,267 US men between 18-45. Of these, 8 are 6’7″ or taller (1 in ~750), and 2 are 6’8″ or taller (1 in ~3000).
LBJ also had a 7’0 1/4″ inch wingspan at the NBA combine. This makes his wingspan to height ratio about 1.06, about the average for NBA players, but unusually large otherwise. That is, without even getting into his vertical leap, etc.: he’s got a > 99.95 percentile skeleton just by his height and arm length.
Toward the question of “genius”: two implications seem to follow.
1. More obvious is the potential for vast illusion about the extent to which anthropometrically “elite” people are imagined to be naturally psychologically “elite”.* Of course, extensive efforts are made by coaches and trainers to change the psychology of elite athletics, and, to the extent they are effective, one can end up with processes by which anthropometrically elite people are shaped toward being psychologically elite in terms of traits important to their sport.
2. Less obvious, perhaps, is that the more anthropometrically selective a sport is, the more opportunity there may be for somebody with an unusual psychological profile to stand out for that. Say “the will to win” was a real thing. If a sport was mostly about “the will to win,” then everybody in the competition would have a hyperdeveloped will to win, and not differ that conspicuously from one another. But, if you have enormous anthropometric selectivity just to get in the pool of the potentially elite players, then the idea that there could be significant psychological difference among those remaining seems much more plausible. In other words, that NBA players are such physical freaks relative to the general population actually makes the notion of their being psychological freaks relative to other NBA players more likely.
* By talking about people having “elite” traits, I mean they are uncommon in a direction that is beneficial for performance in the domain in question.