By Ariel Margolin
Lebron James is undeniably the face of basketball today. He is the man who has it all: the abilities on the court and the camera-garnering smile off the court. In today’s world of basketball, skills alone will not make you the most sought after; the ability to be likeable makes you the top orange-baller, and Lebron certainly has this quality, and then some.
Perhaps what makes Lebron the sweetheart of basketball today are his humble beginnings. Raised by a teenage mother in abject poverty in Akron, Lebron did not have a leg-up in the beginning of his life. To overcome adversity and create a better life for himself and his mother, Lebron began playing basketball with the intention of becoming the best.
Quickly rising as a high school star, Lebron was so fantastic that he did not go into college athletics; instead, he chose to go into the 2003 NBA draft. Knowing the value of this up-and-comer, the Cleveland Cavaliers chose him as first pick. Keep in mind, this was no easy feat for an eighteen-year-old athlete.
Almost immediately living up to expectations, Lebron became the best player the Cavaliers has ever seen. On joining the Cavaliers, Lebron said, “As a kid, we would drive up and down 77 North -- that's our highway -- there would be office buildings on the side of the highway and I'd be like, that's what my house is going to look like when I get older. I'm going to start making my house look like this. Sometimes when I look at my house now and it's kind of bigger than some of those office buildings.”
We all may know Lebron’s skills on the court, but what many don’t know about are his involvements in helping impoverished communities around the country. Lebron’s charitable foundation, The Lebron James Family Foundation, focuses on giving kids the chance to succeed. “Statistics show that if kids fall behind in the third-grade, then the chances of them graduating are a lot less than any other grade. That let us know, OK, this is the grade that we need to start with. We need to get these kids in the third-grade. And we've been fortunate enough to be in our sixth year now. Our third-graders who started the first year of the program are now in eighth-grade. And now we have a new group of kids coming in, and it's been warming for me to see kids really accept this,”
Lebron added, “So, we partnered with the University of Akron and started another program where, if the kids sustain a 3.0 grade-point average — something we feel like our kids can meet under the circumstances and supervision we've given them — then at the end of that road there's a college scholarship. And then they can take that from there.”
In regard to who may be the most influential athlete today, Lebron James is certainly a contender, and a great role model. Not only is he a success story, but he is also inspirational and charitable. We hope to see many more years of basketball and success from Mr. James.