In 2002, LeBron James was on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
He was 17 years old at the time and the cover pushed him onto a national stage. While such high pressure and hype is often detrimental for young athletes, that never was the case for LeBron James as even 17 years later he somehow continues to meet and even exceed the expectations set on his shoulders.The cover also gave LeBron something else he constantly carries with him, to this day. A tattoo across his back, in bold, ornate letters, reads “Chosen 1”.
There and Back Again
LeBron James was drafted Number 1 by his hometown team, Cleveland Cavaliers, in 2003. The Cavs had a pretty sorry team at the time and it had been a while since they could even sniff a Championship.
All of that was going to change though. They had LeBron James. The next Micheal Jordan. He was gonna put Cleveland on the map.
(Spoiler Alert: He did).
But his championship in Cleveland was not gonna come easy. After his first 7 years with the Cavs, LeBron decided to go down a different path. His path included him leaving Cleveland for the Miami Heat; a decision that to this day is one of the most scrutinized moves in sports history. Then he came back to Cleveland and brought the trophy home, ending a 52 year draught in 2015.
Just a Kid from Ohio, Working to Make the World a Better Place
LeBron James will be remembered far after his time not for his Championships, but for what he has done off the court. His commitment to giving back and bettering society sets him apart from the rest.
The undisputed greatest basketball player in the world cares about helping kids and changing lives, not about any credit or accolades that may come with. Recently, LeBron James unveiled what he himself called his “greatest accomplishment”, but it was no NBA award, trophy, or statistic. Instead, LeBron James opened up his own school for children in his hometown of Akron, Ohio.
The King has always been outspoken and opinionated on important social and political issues.
LeBron has constantly spoken about gun laws, racism and the power of education. He has spoken up numerous times about Donald Trump and his activities.
Although his outwardness on such matters have often resulted in him receiving a lot of undue criticism, he believes the criticism only helps him get closer to his goal of spreading awareness to even more people.
His Heart is in the Right Place
Over the years there have been quite a few athletes that have not shied away from voicing their opinions – Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King, to name a few. LeBron James has done an amazing job in following in their footsteps and making inroads of his own.
He has worked to further cement the notion that athletes really do have power beyond their sports. And in this day and age of social media, he has reached millions of followers and continues to inspire future generations along with his peers and other athletes.
He is still vocal about Trump, as you can see from his reactions about the current sitting president as you can see from some of his thoughts on Uninterrupted:
“The climate is hot. The number-one job in America, the appointed person is someone who doesn’t understand the people…
When I was growing up, there was like three jobs that you looked for inspiration … It was the president of the United States, it was whoever was best in sports and it was the greatest musician at the time. You never thought you could be them, but you can grab inspiration from them.
And this time, right now, with the president of the United States, it’s at a bad time. While we cannot change what comes out of that man’s mouth, we can continue to alert the people that watch us, that listen to us, as this is not the way.”
Overwhelmed after reaching an emotional milestone, LeBron remained humble and grateful towards his idol.
When LeBron passed his idol, Michael Jordan to get to the number 4 spot of the all time scoring list in NBA, racking up a sweet total of 32,295 points, he was overcome with emotions.
“I don’t know man. A lot of stuff that I’ve done in my career, this ranks right up there at the top with winning a championship,” James said. “For a kid from Akron, Ohio that needed inspiration and needed some type of positive influence, MJ was that guy for me.
“I watched him from afar, wanted to be like MJ, wanted to shoot fadeaways like MJ, wanted to stick my tongue out on dunks like MJ, wanted to wear my sneakers like MJ.
I wanted kids to look up to me at some point like MJ. It’s crazy to be honest. It’s beyond crazy.”
“I mean just listen man, I always tell you guys, when you an inner city kid from Akron, Ohio, like myself and my guys growing up, you look for anything, any lightning in a bottle that can inspire you, because you’re put up against the numbers of failing,” said LeBron to another reporter.
“The percentages of guys like myself, single-parent household, only child, underprivileged. Making it out, it’s not high at all. And MJ had a lot to do with me making it out, along with my mother, along with the city itself, along with the little league coaches I had. But Mike had no idea what he was doing for a kid that was growing a 45-minute flight from Chicago when he was putting in that work.”
LeBron James has revolutionized the definition of being an athlete, making a definite impact as both an astounding athlete and also as a concerned citizen, working to make his fans lives a little better, one step at a time. While LeBron’s own scoring list will, no doubt, overtaken by another young upstart, it’s safe to say that his goodwill on and off the court will last far longer than that.
“To me the most incredible part about that is what an unselfish player he is. For someone that’s always looking pass-first to score that many points in his career just speaks to the greatness of his game,” said Luke Walton, head coach of the Lakers. “It was pretty special and cool to be a part of.”
Growing up, James couldn’t afford good shoes. Now he’s looking to inspire kids to aspire to have cool sneakers of their own, like he does now. He has his own line of sneakers, called LeBron 16s, and in true LeBron fashion, he made sure to pay homage to his role model through both the designs (inspired by Jordan 3s) and the message he wrote on his pair after the game ended.
“You guys have no idea what MJ did for me and my friends growing up just in the sense of some days where you just don’t even feel like you going to make it to the next day because of everything that’s going on so. Like I wrote on my shoes tonight, like you saw, I thanked MJ more than he would’ve ever known.
And I got to carry it all to the next kid, hopefully I can inspire the next kid like myself.”
If that isn’t a class act by a true gentleman, then I don’t know what is.