‘Mixed-handers’ make up less than 1% of the world’s population — except in the NBA where 1 in 12 stars play and write with different hands. What’s going on?

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Although he plays basketball right-hand dominant, Lebron James is actually left handed. Credit: Sportsrush
Although he plays basketball right-hand dominant, Lebron James is actually left handed. Credit: Sportsrush

LeBron James writes with his left hand, eats with his left hand and uses his dominant left hand for almost everything in his life—except his job.

He is a natural lefty and basketball righty. 

This may be the weirdest thing about having a hidden physical idiosyncrasy known as mixed-handedness: It’s actually not that weird if you work in the NBA. 

About 8% of the league’s All-Stars over the last decade write with one hand and play with the other, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis based on examining photographs of NBA players signing autographs. 

There’s a difference between mixed-handedness and the more common phenomenon of ambidexterity. While being truly ambidextrous means being equally skillful with both hands, almost everybody in the NBA is ambidextrous to some extent.

Scholars believe that 1% of people are mixed-handed, which means they’re as likely to use their left hand and right hand, while roughly 10% are mixed-handed enough to perform some tasks with one and some with the other. 

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“I have no idea why I became a righty,” James said in 2017. “I just thought it looked cool—till I got older. Now I wish I were a lefty because those shots look a lot better.” 

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