LeBron’s Unknown Legacy

LeBron James is the most publicly covered athlete in professional sports by a country mile, which is a dangerous thing. We live at the height of sports coverage in the social media presence. Any game, any interview, any comment made online is now open for all to see. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are dangerous social media platforms as words are easy to type and false information is tossed around carelessly. We now live in an era where social media rules over any sports related.

Unfortunately for James, he is on the main stage of  praise and criticism. If you go beyond the arguments of his statistics and talent, you will find also find the ridicule that comes with being the most famous athlete in America. LeBron has been criticized his entire career; for changing teams, his negative attitude, whining on the court, etc.

When you’re one of the greatest, you’re always subject to comparisons, and everything you do is going to be judged.

Take a step off the court. Take your eyes away from his statistics. Stop looking at MVP trophies or NBA Championships. Take LeBron’s basketball career completely out of the picture and look at what he’s done outside of the sport. What you’ll find is a man that has done so much more than any of us have ever given him credit for.

Yesterday, LeBron James and his charity, “The LeBron James Family Foundation” partnered with Akron Public Schools to open the “I Promise School” in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. The school will open its doors next Monday to 240 third and fourth grade at-risk youths, and each year, it will keep expanding in grades.

LeBron’s school will offer free tuition, uniforms, bicycles with helmets, transportation within two miles, food, and water for the students, and will also offer a food pantry for families, GED’s and job placement services for parents, and guaranteed tuition to the University of Akron for every student who graduates. James’ Foundation partnered with the university in 2015 to provide guaranteed scholarships to 1,100 “I Promise School” graduates. In total, LeBron’s foundation is spending over $42 million to get these kids into college.

James had this to say at an event held in 2015 at Cedar Point Amusement Park:

“These students have big dreams, and I’m happy to do everything I can to help them get there. They’re going to have to earn it, but I’m excited to see what these kids can accomplish knowing that college is in their futures.”

You can read more about the “I Promise School” and its future plans here.

The school’s motto is, “Nothing is given. Everything is earned.” LeBron, along with his foundation, are truly starting something great in his home community. The time and work that has gone into this alone is unbelievable. To understand what this school means to LeBron, we need to look at his past.

Gloria James gave birth to LeBron in Akron in 1984 at the age of sixteen. He never knew his father, and the only father figure he did have was his mother’s boyfriend who was in and out of prison for selling drugs. He and his mother were constantly moving and he even stayed with a foster family for some time. When he was is the fourth grade, he missed 84 days of school. 84!!!

He stayed out of trouble and eventually made a name for himself when he reached St. Vincent-Mary High School, where he met his girlfriend and future wife Brinson. He and his wife have been together for 17 remarkable years and now have three children. Not once is he ever in the news for any cheating, domestic abuse, child abuse, or any marital problems that you so often see in the news regarding professional athletes.

A talented athlete with a single young mother has stayed straight and narrow despite having no father, no money, no full time residency, and having every odd against him. He matured quicker than he aged.

That brings us to the present. LeBron currently contributes to six different charities, which includes After School All-Stars, Boys And Girls Clubs of America, Children’s Defense Fund, Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation, ONEXONE, and the LeBron James Family Foundation.

The LeBron James Family Foundation was started in 2013, with the mission of positively affecting the lives of children and adults through education and extracurricular activities. They have started the program “Just Cling It” to raise over $16,000 in grocery money. The Foundation donated over 5,800 toys in the Little Tikes Toy Give, and started the program “Afterschool All-Stars,” which gives help to educational classes and extracurricular activities in the Akron community. The Foundation also holds the “Family Reunion” event once a year at Cedar Point amusement park. To go along with this, James and the Foundation have spent over 1,500 hours with families and kids along with sending over 8,000 letters and phone calls.

When James did “The Decision”  special on ESPN which made him the most hated athlete in the sports world at the time, it went under the radar that he donated $2.5 million of the proceeds raised from that special to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

There are dozens of other charities and events which he supports and donates to along with meeting many poor families and less fortunate children when he can. I used to be a big hater of LeBron for his on-court antics despite being the best player of my generation. When I stopped looking at what LeBron has done in the NBA and started looking at what he has done for our communities, I became a fan. LeBron’s legacy in the NBA is still growing and will go down as one of the best ever, but in the end, it is his legacy off the court that will be remembered, appreciated, and forever cherished.

Photo: NY Daily News

 

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