Every week, check out Freelance Friday, featuring a rising journalist who is (ahem) a few decades younger than me. See their take on . . . whatever.
BY D’MITRI CHIN
Since LeBron James entered the NBA in 2004, he has proven that he is unlike any other player. Yes, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and a staggering list of others can make their case as the league’s G.O.A.T. – well, as the best athlete ever, for that matter. It’s just that King James’ ability to be a profound pillar in society is what allows him to surpass all challengers.
Four months ago, James announced plans to open an elementary school in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. On Monday, he stayed true to that promise, and speaking of “promise,” the name of his $8 million dream turned reality is I Promise School. It provides third and fourth graders a learning experience like none other in the Akron public school system. Students get bikes, meals and, most importantly, free tuition at the University of Akron.
What a splendid contrast for James between his Cleveland Exit No. 2 last month, when he went from the Cavaliers to the Los Angeles Lakers, and his Cleveland Exit No. 1 in 2010, when he punctured hearts around northeastern Ohio after his decision to ditch the Cavaliers and join the likes of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with the Miami Heat.
Following Cleveland Exit No. 1, James still had the LeBron James Family Foundation operating in Cavaliers Country, but he did little to make those he left behind feel good about King James or themselves. They perked up a lot after he returned to the Cavaliers in 2014. Then two years later, he led them over the Golden State in the NBA Finals, and Cleveland had its first world championship in 52 years involving a team from a major sports league. Now James bolts town again, but he isn’t doing so without thinking of the legacy he wants to leave his part of Ohio.
Mostly, James wants to reach into the impoverished neighborhoods around Akron and influence the future of 240 youngsters who will make up the inaugural class of his new school. He’s making a significant impact in his community, and here’s the difference between James and his peers at the highest level of athletics: He wholeheartedly takes pride in using his platform to bring awareness to political issues and being the voice for the voiceless. He acknowledges the fact that athletes are the world’s greatest influencers and role models for adults and children.
James also has a knack for finding the needy, even beyond Ohio, which is why he wanted the spotlight of Hollywood to help him do so.
Unlike James, many of today’s athletes are focused on self-profit rather than trying to become a respected public figure. Jordan comes to mind, because he was among the first superstar athletes with an opportunity to have a powerful impact on lives around the world; however, he continues to cause more turmoil than peace in urban communities with his iconic Jordan Brand. Numerous killings occur over Jordan sneakers, and the man behind the brand remains tight-lipped. This isn’t to say that he has never uttered a word about such tragedies, but he isn’t as vocal as he should be.
Insert James instead Jordan, and you have a basketball player who is willing to go to war (not physically) with the President of the United States over players exercising their rights to protest peacefully in the NFL.
Sorry, Laura Ingraham.
James decided not just to shut up and dribble.
That’s good for everybody.
D’Mitri Chin is a junior majoring in journalism with a minor in speech communication at Georgia State University. He is the former associate sports editor for The Signal, and he is currently a freelance sports reporter. He is also a contributor to The Douglas County Sentinel. In his spare time, D’Mitri enjoys lifting weights and playing basketball. You can follow D’Mitri on Twitter @1DMitriChin.