Last week, LeBron James spoke with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols in his first sit-down interview since taking his talent to Los Angeles. The video had 1 million views in the first 24 hours.
In case you’ve been living under a rock or you’re not a sports fan, here’s a quick recap:
On July 1, Cleveland Cavaliers superstar James announced that he was joining the Lakers. James had signed a four-year, $154 million contract. Laker ticket sales skyrocketed within 20 minutes. FormSwift estimated that James’ move to Los Angeles would bring 3,000 new jobs, have a five-year local economic impact of close to $400 million, and that the five-year state tax revenue would be about $30 million dollars.
This was all old news by the time James sat down for the interview with Nichols.
Everyone with a pen and a byline was chomping at the bit for an interview. But James wasn’t in a rush. He had a plan.
Quick detour for a personal sidebar.
In sports, I like to root for the underdog, so being a James fan was never in the cards for me. Where’s the thrill of rooting for the best player in basketball? Except, of course, when his team is playing the Golden State Warriors.
Now James has come to our city. Still not a fan.
Star athletes get so much attention, adulation and respect for doing something that few people can do. I appreciate it and waste too much time watching them. But at the end of the day, the world is no better today because James is a superhuman physical specimen and is one of the best ever to play the game.
Back to the interview.
Within the first moments of the interview, you realize that James has chosen the location. He has something to promote. It’s not an ESPN studio. Not on the floor at Staples. He’s at a public school.
Within the first two minutes, Nichols says, “You’re a guy who has won three NBA titles, four MVPs, and yet you will tell anyone who listens that opening this school today is a greater moment than any of those — and I got tape of you in Game 7 in the NBA Finals. Do you mean it?”
James says, “I do.”
You heard that, right? After 16 years of a prolific and already legendary NBA career, James said — and I’m paraphrasing here — “Basketball is a tool that allows me to be an ambassador of good.”
I hope NBA players will realize that James’ philanthropy is his greatest achievement.
The details of this new $8 million public school, a collaboration between James’ foundation and the Akron Public School District in Ohio, are impressive.
Every one of the 240 students at this school for at-risk kids will get free breakfast, lunch, snacks and drinks. There is a “support circle” for students after lunch and every student gets access to a fitness trainer. Parents will get GED courses and job placement, and every student gets a new bike. Finally, if a student graduates from the school, James will pay for his or her tuition at the University of Akron.
Like most people, I’m a fan of a specific team: my home team. The team that fans forge a visceral relationship with from adolescence. A team that, no matter how many games it may lose, real fans still feel something in their kishkes when they see the jersey.
I’m still with my team, but now I root for players and owners who use their divine given platform to make a divine difference.
How can you not root for Houston Texan defensive end J.J. Watt after he helped raise close to $40 million for the victims of Hurricane Harvey?
You gotta love Robert Kraft, principal owner of the New England Patriots, for making an annual trip to Israel and bringing with him hall of famers such as Jim Brown, Joe Montana, Roger Staubach, Joe Greene, Cris Carter, John Stallworth, Eric Dickerson and Marshall Faulk.
I hope the NBA players who strive to emulate James’ on-the-court success will realize that his philanthropy is his greatest achievement and the one that should be the most emulated.
Today, the world is a better place because of LeBron James. Bruchim habaim, LeBron. Welcome to L.A.
Chaim Marcus is the CEO of Marcus Advertising in Marina del Rey.