At a Wide World of Sports basketball championship in 1997 a group of eight grade boys from Northeast Ohio rose from obscurity to come within one point of the championship title. Nobody expected this team from Riedinger Middle School to reach so far—including the members of the team itself. But having come so close to victory left the 6 foot tall,13-year old LeBron James with a view of something more.
While sitting down with Robin Roberts in his high school alma mater, St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio, James remembers his excitement after that game.
“I was like, okay, I got a little something going here. Maybe I can make my dream can become a reality. Let’s just stay focused.” said James.
That ‘little something’ has turned into two NBA championships, four NBA MVP Awards, two NBA Finals MVP Awards and two Olympic gold medals. Among the greatest players in basketball, James cites those early days in Akron for creating the sports super star that he is today.
“It helped me tremendously, being an athlete and being around basketball. It helped mold me to who I am today -the friendships and the brotherhood that it created.” That camaraderie has stuck with James. “When you play sports, it’s a responsibility that you have when you’re playing with a group, that you have to hold your end of the bargain,” said James.
For James, holding up the bargain extends to his life off the court as well. Despite the titles James has amassed throughout his career, the 27 year-old’s philanthropic endeavors show that he is a true team player. From the Boys and Girls Club of America and the Children’s Defense Fund to his own organization, the LeBron James Family Foundation and his annual bikathon, James feels a responsibility as a professional athlete to give back, to be an inspiration to kids who may not get much support.
“I have always enjoyed being around kids. When I got to play sports I was around kids that became my brothers for life. It’s part of our job to be there for these kids, to be able to give these kids a chance to make their dreams become a reality,” said James. ”
Now, with two sons of his own, he is getting to see the responsibility that comes with being a strong role model. Raised by his single mother, James recognizes his mother’s strength for his success.
“I was lucky enough to have a strong woman in my corner,” said James. “My mother was definitely number one on my list. She’s everything to me. At the end of the day, no matter what I was going through, she always kept the outside away from me.”
That ability to keep the difficulties of the world outside from getting the best of her son has allowed LeBron James to put his size 16 shoes into his mother’s inspirational footsteps, lighting up the basketball court and giving some of that star power back.
“To be able to shed light on darkness, to be able to give these kids a chance to make their dreams become a reality,” Dreams that once allowed a young man from Akron, Ohio to turn “a little something” into almost everything.