NBA Star LeBron James Gets Personal About His Commitment to Community, Childhood Education

“I definitely could've been a statistic,” James said.

ByABC News
August 18, 2016, 8:21 AM

— -- LeBron James said he is ready to “continue to build excellence” in Cleveland, both on the court and off, after signing a $100 million contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“It feels so good to be back with my hometown team and just commit for another three years on the team to continue to build excellence on the court and off the floor,” James said today on “Good Morning America.” “It’s a good time for my family, a good time for Cavalier fans and everybody that’s a part of it.”

James, 31, helped the Cavaliers bring home the NBA Championship last season. He said of the thrill of that victory, “I haven’t had that feeling in a long time, if ever.”

As he looks ahead to winning his next championship, James is also focused on helping the community in which he grew up through his LeBron James Family Foundation, which he founded in 2004.

The foundation Tuesday hosted what James called a “family reunion” for the third-grade students his foundation began helping in 2011. That year, James and his team decided to focus on a local group of third-graders and help closely support them month after month, year after year, all the way through high school.

“It’s unbelievable what we’ve been able to do so far,” James said of the "I Promise" program, which has also partnered with the University of Akron to provide 2,300 four-year college scholarships for "I Promise" students who graduate from high school and meet certain criteria.

“It will mean everything to me,” he said of one day watching kids from the program go to college. “That’s why we have so many people looking after them, from mentors to I’ve got high school kids looking after our kids. We have the University of Akron looking after our kids.”

James said he is focused on helping his local community in hopes that will spark bigger change.

“For me, to be able to go back into my community and have hands on, start kid by kid, block by block and street by street, and building that up, I feel like that helps us to make a change, ultimately, for the rest of us,” he said.

A Personal Cause

When James joined his fellow NBA superstars at the ESPYs this year to plead for an end to violence and make a powerful declaration of their commitment to helping create change in their respective communities, it was very personal.

“I definitely could've been a statistic," James said in an interview that aired today on "GMA" with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols. "I mean, I grew up in a single parent household. My mother was 16 when she had me. I grew up in the inner-city where there's a lot of violence."

James told Nichols that there were times when his early life felt like a struggle.

“You know, I had days where I just felt like it was just me and mom, you know, and no one cared, you know, and there's no way that -- we're going be able to make it out of this,” he said.

Of course, those days are far behind him, but the father of three hasn’t forgotten them.

Impact of 'I Promise'

James' foundation's "I Promise" initiative is now serving more than 1,215 students by providing them with the programs, support and the mentors they need for success in school and life.

Casandra Morrow cried as she discussed the effect the program's college scholarship would have on her daughter.

“It's amazing," she said. "It gives you that sense of life for your own kid because we didn't have it. So to know that she's going to have that, it's great."

And there’s even an initiative to help parents.

“We have a lot of parents here that didn't graduate high school," James told Nichols. "So not only are we tracking our kids here to make them become better, we're also lending a helping hand to a lot of the parents that didn't graduate high school, and putting them in programs where they can get their high school diploma, and get a GED."

That will give Ericka Rouser a welcome second chance to complete her education.

“I had my first son when I was 16," she said. "And I went to school for a little bit, then I dropped out ... And it always kind of haunted me, like, ‘Go back to school. Go back to school,’ and stuff. So when I got the letter in the mail for the orientation for the GED class, I kind of was jumping up and down, like, ‘It's my turn now.'"

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