The Cleveland Cavaliers have won their first championship in 52 years, winning Game 7 over the Golden State Warriors by a score of 93-89. It is the first time a team has come back from falling behind in a 3-1 Finals series. Although, basketball is a team sport, LeBron James was a powerful force to be reckoned with. He was named Finals MVP for the third time in his career, averaging 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 2.6 steals and 2.3 blocks.
Born in Akron, Ohio in 1984, James received national attention as the top high school player in the country. In 2003, he was the first player picked in the NBA Draft by the Cavaliers and became the youngest player, at the age of 20, to win the NBA Rookie of the Year award.
After making the “Decision” to leave Cleveland in 2010 to play for the Miami Heat, James returned in 2016 to his city of Cleveland and promised to bring them a championship. James said, “I came back for a reason. I came back to bring a championship to our city. I knew what I was capable of doing. I knew what I learned in the last couple years that I was gone, and when I came back, I knew I had the right ingredients and the right blueprint to help this franchise get back to a place that we’ve never been. That’s what it was all about”.
Though he is best known for his work inside the court, outside of the NBA, James works within the community throughout the entire year. James gears his passion and efforts towards the community and in his hometown of Akron. James and his mother established the LeBron James Family Foundation in 2004, to help out children and single-parent families in need.
The foundation has many programs, but its overall mission is to positively affect the lives of children and young adults through education and co-curricular educational initiatives. The initiatives that the foundation focuses on include: Wheels for Education, Akron I Promise Network, The LeBron Advisory Board (LAB), St. Vincent- St. Mary High School, University of Akron, and the Boys and Girls Club.
According to the James Foundation, the Wheels for Education program began in 2011 when LeBron partnered with State Farm to develop a campaign that targeted the national dropout issue. The State Farm 26 Second Campaign led to the development of the Wheels for Education program, which provides support, encouragement and incentives to third graders in Akron public schools up until their high school graduations in 2021.
This will be the first class from the program to graduate from high school. As a result, a 2014 survey by the Akron Public Schools showed that 91% of parents with kids in the “Wheels for Education” program said their child was doing better academically. Children enrolled in the program also showed to have a higher attendance rate than the rest of the district.
While this dedication and commitment is notable enough for anyone, James’ efforts and drive to help the community do not end there. In 2015, James announced that he would be giving children the chance to go to college for free.
James partnered with the University of Akron to sponsor full ride scholarships for the 1,100 children currently in his I Promise program. The children in the program range from the third to the seventh grades. If they complete the program and meet attendance and grade requirements, their tuition will be covered by James’ foundation and the university starting in 2021. This will cost an approximately $41.8 million at the university’s current yearly tuition rate of $9,500.
Furthermore, James’ foundation projects also included $1 million to completely renovate the St. Vincent- St. Mary high school gym including providing new athletic uniforms, new sports equipment, and new locker room facilities for both women and men student athletes.
Aside from his own foundation, James is a long time contributor to the Boys and Girls Club. In 2010 when he made the “Decision”, his announcement raised $2.5 million for the Boy’s and Girl’s Club. Today, he continues to travel across the nation and works with each city that hosts the NBA All-Star Game that particular year. Last year, the foundation renovated the Boys and Girls Club in Manhattan, New York. Some of the other charities and foundations that James supports are: After-School All-Stars, Children’s Defense Fund, Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation, and ONEXONE.
As a result, of his work (on and off the court) James has received many awards. His basketball career awards include, but is not limited to: four NBA Most Valuable Player Awards, three NBA Final MVP Awards, two Olympic gold medals, and NBA Rookie of the Year. However, he has also won awards outside of the court which include, H. Peter Burg Award from the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce, NBA Community Assist Award, and Champion of Youth Award from the Boys and Girls Club.
Aside from being one of the best professional basketball players of the generation, he is considered to be on top of the list as one of the most charitable professional athletes of all time. His dedication, talent and hard work on and off the court define him as a champion in every way. In a world where it is more common to hear of athletes and their wrongdoings, it is refreshing to see a positive role model who commits year-long for the community he serves.