An Extraordinary Basketball Player
By Nadijah Imani
Many people are not aware that NBA’s MVP LeBron James is not just focused on his exceptional basketball career. Due to his adamant desire to help youth and their families, he has established an array of community involvement programs.
James has an insurmountable amount of respect and dedication to care and provide for the needs of the people around him through inspiring community involvement programs. He began such efforts in 2003, the year he was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers. In December 2003, he visited the Ed Davis Community Center in Cleveland, Ohio, and gave sweatshirts, along with $50.00 gift cards for KB Toys to more than one hundred children who played basketball in the Tiny Tots League at the Center.
In 2004, James established the LeBron James Family Foundation (LJFF), which empowers children and single-parent households through innovative programming and initiatives, strengthening the ties between family members and building hope through education, physical fitness, and better health for those dealing with adversity.
Some of the foundation’s most important national community involvement programs include: The Playground Build Initiative, in partnership with State Farm, which is focused on developing family-centered safe play spaces, where children can be physically active in a multi-dimensional environment that encourages creative play; and the Meal & a Movie events, in partnership with the Coca-Cola Company, which provides disadvantaged families with the opportunity to spend quality time together, enjoying a special meal and viewing a not-yet-released family-friendly movie.
The LeBron James Family Foundation has established other community involvement programs, one being in partnership with Nickelodeon, to encourage children to be physically fit and environmentally aware with the Big Green Help Initiative.
In September 2005, James donated 1,000 backpacks full of school supplies to area youngsters in both Akron, Ohio and Cleveland, as one of his community involvement programs, through the LeBron James Family Foundation, in partnership with Target. James distributed these backpacks and supplies personally at two locations on September 2, 2005.
James, through his foundation’s Playground Build Initiative, funded the first state-of-the-art playground at the St. Bernard Recreation Center, located in New Orleans, in February 2008. This recreation center was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Upon its completion, this playground will have the very best of equipment, a custom-designed jungle gym, picnic tables, outdoor barbecue grills, gardens, as well as a specifically designed safety surface that will replicate a basketball court.
In July 2008, James received the NBA Community Assist Award for the previous year, in recognition of his outstanding efforts in his community involvement programs, as well as his ongoing philanthropic and charitable work.
The league presents the NBA Community Assist Award monthly to recognize players for their community involvement programs and their charitable efforts. The award honors the NBA Player who best reflects the passion that the league and its players have for giving back to their respective communities.
James was honored for the success of his Annual King-for-Kids Bike-A-Thon, which is held in Akron, Ohio every year. The event raised more than $150,000.00 for three local non-profit organizations, which were the LeBron James Family Foundation, the Akron Area YMCA, and the Akron Urban League. More than 2,000 participants attended this day-long event, which raised awareness and funding for viable community involvement programs, while recognizing and awarding local youth who had achieved exceptional academic success, improved their physical fitness and made viable contributions within the community.
Other community involvement programs that James has participated in include visiting the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital, along with his teammates, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Anderson Varejao, Mo Williams, Wally Sczerbiak, Sasha Pavlocic and Lorenzen Wright to provide gifts, as well as assist the children in the decorations for the Christmas holidays.
In February 2009, in LeBron’s effort to assist in community involvement programs, and as part of the Cavaliers Fit as a Pro Program, James taught twenty-six sixth graders from Holy Cross Elementary School in Euclid, Ohio, his cool-down yoga routine, at the Cleveland Clinic Courts. Each student received a Cavaliers yoga mat.
Additionally, James and his foundation, along with State Farm and the No Fault Sport Group, teamed up to provide and dedicate a playground for the children at the Robson Boys and Girls Club in North Phoenix, Arizona. This continued the community involvement program initiative that began in February 2008, in New Orleans.
James indicated that he knew that the economy was bad. He said that, “Any time you get the opportunity to initiate community involvement programs for the good of the kids, it means a lot to me and a lot to our foundation.”
LeBron’s foundation has partnered with several businesses throughout the country, with a hands-on approach to community assistance, in helping to create or re-create the places where families live, learn and play. At this dedication ceremony, James brought both of his sons, LeBron Jr. and Bryce, to test out the playground areas.
As it relates to James’ professional basketball career, there is much to be said about his accomplishments. In 2003, at the age of 18 he was selected with the number one pick in that year’s NBA draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers and signed a $90 million shoe contract with Nike before his first debut with the team. Although the NBA lists him as a small forward, he often plays the position of “point forward,” due to his extraordinary talent to run the offense like a point guard.
“King James,” as he is often called, has set numerous records, such as NBA Rookie of the Year in 2003-2004 as well as being named to the All NBA and All Star team every season since 2005. As the focal point of the Cavaliers’ defense, James has led the team to consecutive playoff appearances from 2006 through 2009.
James was also a member of the United States Men’s National Basketball Team, and has won the Bronze Medal in the 2004 Olympics, as well as the Gold Medal in the 2008 Olympics. He also was runner-up for the 2009 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Over the past year James has averaged 32 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 7.5 assists, which of course, led him to receive NBA’s MVP Award. There has been an extensive amount of conversation and controversy about this award, as James has been continuously compared to Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers) and Dwayne Wade (Miami Heat).
However, he has remained focused from the start. At 6’8” and 250 pounds, James has continued to sharpen his already astonishing skills, and due to his outstanding averages, there was no other choice. That’s why they call him “King James.”
Imani is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine.