The Gospel According to King James
Photo Credit: Steven Williams
LeBron Raymone James was born on December 30, 1984 in Akron, Ohio to Gloria James, a 16 year-old single-mom seduced and abandoned by Anthony McClleland, an ex-con with no interest in parenting. Gloria did the best she could to raise LeBron on her own but that still meant moving frequently, living in the projects, and even temporarily surrendering custody of her son until she could get her finances straightened out.
Fortunately, LeBron found a sanctuary on the basketball court, where he would not only maximize his potential but forge lasting friendships with four teammates he would play with from junior high through high school: Dru Joyce III, Romeo Travis, Willie McGee and Sian Cotton. He was also very close to their coach, Dru’s dad, who would serve a critical role in shaping his character during his formative years as a father figure.
Of course, everyone knows that LeBron blossomed into a basketball phenom who skipped college and went straight to the NBA where in 2009 he became the youngest player ever to be named league MVP at the age of 24. But few are aware of how loyal, humble and unselfish a man he is as well.
To understand why LeBron has remained so grounded despite being nicknamed King James and being surrounded by all the trappings of overnight success, check out More Than a Game, an uplifting documentary directed by Kristopher Belman. This moving bio-pic chronicles the seven-year sojourn of the Fab Five, recounting both their basketball exploits and the personal challenges each had to face while collectively pursuing theirs hoop dreams.
Here, LeBron talks about the film as he reflects on life and his professional career.
Kam Williams: Hi LeBron, thanks for the time. I’m honored to have this opportunity to speak with you.
LeBron James: Oh man, thanks for having me.
KW: I loved More Than a Game. Why did you decide to make this movie about you and your childhood teammates?
LJ: I thought it was time, and the footage that the director, Kris Belman, had shot was unbelievable. He followed us around our whole senior year for what was just supposed to be a ten-minute school project. But after he saw what he had captured on tape, he knew it had the potential to be way more than that. And then when he came to me with the first little trailer that he made, I was like, ’Wow! I’m on board. Let’s make something big out of this.’
KW: Well the finished product is very moving. Obviously, I was already well aware of your achievements on the basketball court, but this really related your personal story in a very powerful way. Congratulations!
LJ: Thank you very much. I appreciate that. My life has never been a bed of roses. I think now a lot of people are going to understand where I come from and who I am today.
KW: Part of what is so impressive about you is your loyalty to your childhood friends and your continued connection to your roots, which is something you don’t find with a lot of other pro athletes.
LJ: Well, thank you. I’m very humbled by the things I’m able to do on and off the court. I’m grateful to be in this position, and being able to give back really means a lot to me.
KW: What would you say has kept you so grounded?
LJ: My mother, Gloria James, and my upbringing have kept me grounded. When you’re a kid growing up in a single-parent household, it sometimes forces you to mature a lot faster than you might want. In my case, I had to become the man of the house very early. My childhood was never great. We moved from place to place a lot. There were times when we had no definite place to stay. So, a basic level of security was not always there. Therefore, when you finally make it out, and you become who I am today, you’re humbled by the memories of those situations. you’re kept grounded by those reminders that you didn’t always have it all.
KW: What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?
LJ: My childhood’ my childhood was my biggest obstacle.
Photo Credit: Steven Williams
KW: Reverend Florine Thomspon asks, do you see yourself as a mentor today?
KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
LJ: Honestly, no. I’m very open about myself. And between the movie and my autobiography, I’m putting everything I’ve been through in these 25 years of my life out there. So, there’s really nothing that hasn’t been said.
KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
LJ: Am I ever afraid? Of course. I think everyone experiences those moments.
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
LJ: Definitely! I’m very happy.
KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
LJ: About two minutes before I started speaking with you. [Laughs]
KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
Read an AALBC.com Book Review
“Our sense of modern athletes is often limited to what highlight reels and marketing campaigns reveal or obscure.Shooting Stars is the compelling and often poignant story of a remarkable group of young men only one of whom happens to be a future NBA superstar. In the end we care about them all, even as we come away with a truer understanding and appreciation of the circumstances and relationships that forged one of the most significant sports figures of our time.”
—Bob Costas, HBO and NBC sports commentator.
LJ: Shooting Stars.
KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What music are you listening to?
LJ: The Blueprint 3 by Jay-Z.
KW: The Laz Alonso question: How can your fans help you?
LJ: By just continuing to respect and to embrace the way I play the game of basketball. And I’m going to continue to respect them.
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
LJ: A great father, a great friend, a loyal person and someone who’s always trying to make a difference.
KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
LJ: When I cook, my favorite thing to make is grilled cheese sandwiches. [Chuckles]
KW: The Flex Alexander question: How do you get through the tough times?
LJ: By remembering my upbringing. That was as tough as it could get for me. There’s nothing that could happen in my life right now that could be as hard.
KW: Reverend Thompson also asks, what is your greatest source of motivation?
LJ: My family. My two sons are my greatest inspiration.
KW: Some readers sent in basketball questions. Attorney Peter Brav asks how do you think it will be on the Cavaliers this season with your longtime center, Zydrunas Ilgauskus, having to share playing time with Shaq?
LJ: I think it’ll be great adding a future Hall of Famer in Shaquille O’Neal and having a couple of complimentary guys like that on the team
KW: Laz: Lyles wants to know if you would have liked to see Iverson come to Cleveland.
LJ: Allen Iverson is also a future Hall of Famer. Any Hall of Famer who wants to play alongside is always welcome.
KW: Peter, who I suspect is Jewish and 54 and plays basketball, also asks: Who is the best 54 year-old Jewish basketball player you know?
LJ: [LOL] I don’t know. I have a lot of Jewish friends, but I’ve never seen them on the basketball court.
KW: Yale Grad Tommy Russell has a question for you about politics. What do you think about the Obama administration’s acquiescence to the proposed missile defense system in Eastern Europe? How do you think that will affect our diplomatic relations with Russia?
LJ: Well, I think Obama’s doing what best for the country. He’s an unbelievable guy. Very intelligent, very calm and very humble. So, I ’m very confident that he’s always going to do what’s best.
KW: Karla Thompson would like to know, whether you make time to reflect on all your achievements and to thank God for how far you’ve come?
LJ: I wouldn’t be anywhere without the Man above. I appreciate and try to take full advantage of my God-given talents. So, yes, absolutely!
KW: Karla also asks, are there any goals you have not yet achieved thus far?
LJ: Yes, winning the NBA Championship
KW: Mike Ehrenberg says he saw you play in Trenton during your senior year of high school. It was your first game back after you were reinstated following your suspension for accepting a couple of jerseys from a clothing store. What are you memories of that day?
LJ: I was very excited and very emotional, because I just couldn’t wait to get back on the basketball court.
KW: How do you want to be remembered?
LJ: As a very, very great basketball player, but more important than that, as just a great person who dedicated himself to kids and to giving back.
KW: In the movie, you describe your junior high and high school playing days this way: ’It was basketball, but it was more like friendship than anything.’ What did you mean by that?
LJ: It was wonderful to make lasting friendships with a great group of guys, and also to have a great coach who was willing to serve as a father figure. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I still have those guys around me to this day. In fact, I spoke to all four of them just this morning, as well as to my coach. I feel fortunate and blessed to still have that kind of access, because you don’t see that very often in life.
KW: You have such deep roots in Ohio. Will you really seriously consider playing anywhere else when your contract expires?
LJ: I love my hometown of Akron, and I love the fans of Cleveland. They’ve given me everything, so I’m just looking forward to this season which is going to be great.
KW: Well, thanks again LeBron, and best of luck this season.
LJ: Thank you.
The Trailer for More Than a Game:
Shooting Stars by LeBron James and Buzz Bissinger - Book Review