More than an athlete

John Quinlan

Aside from leading his Los Angeles Lakers basketball team to an NBA second best 41-12 record, Lebron James has been praised for his off-court endeavors.
11th graders from the inaugural class of Lebron James’ I Promise School were invited to spend the day at Kent State University. When they arrived at the school’s auditorium, the students were surprised with envelopes informing them that I Promise and Kent State University partnered to provide qualifying students with four years of tuition-free college and one full year of room and board for free.

While being interviewed by the media postgame, James spoke on the Kent State scholarships, “I just know that so many kids in my community just don’t have many options. For me to be able to be in a position to give these kids options to decide what they want to do with their future, it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done.”
Coming from a disadvantaged background himself, LeBron James has been committed to using his platform and wealth to help kids in the same situation he was growing up. The James Family Foundation helped fund the creation of the I Promise School, a public school that serves underprivileged families in Akron, Ohio. The school was considered by some as an experiment at first, but test scores reveal the school’s success and promise. Test scores revealed that students’ test score improvements were in the 99th percentile nationally. This improvement is an incredible jump, but students still need improvement to be at “grade level.”

The school is a public school operated and funded by the district, but the James Family Foundation provides additional funding that allows for additional staffing, after school programming and tutoring, as well as G.E.D. preparation, work advice, and health and legal services for parents of students. The school’s success serves as evidence to the lack of support students had before the I Promise School opened and the benefits from extra funding to the whole student experience.
LeBron’s I Promise School is no stranger to providing affordable college opportunities to underprivileged youth. Not only do I Promise School students have the option to attend Kent State tuition free, but the school and the LeBron James Family Foundation have already partnered to provide free tuition to the University of Akron for students that graduate high school and complete required criteria in the classroom and in the community.

These opportunities reflect the great positive impact of the Lebron James Family Foundation and how the I Promise school is “dedicated to giving Akron’s most challenged students and their families the resources and wraparound supports needed on the path to a better future.”
As he plays in the latter half of his career, LeBron James has dedicated his off-court life to using his influence and platform to benefit others.

James has been an outspoken leader and embodiment of the #MoreThanAnAthlete movement. The hashtag began in 2018 in response to comments of Fox News reporter Laura Ingrahm, in which she said “It’s always unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid $100 million a year to bounce a ball. Keep the political comments to yourselves… Shut up and dribble.” This comment sparked an online movement among professional athletes and other celebrities, defending James and showing support for athletes doing more than playing their sport, but pursue other endeavors and to help their communities.

The late Kobe Bryant also championed the #MoreThanAnAthlete movement and served as an example of athletes doing more than their sport when he was awarded an Academy Award for his short film “Dear Basketball.” James has also ventured into other fields such as business and entertainment, serving as a large stakeholder for the pizza chain Blaze Pizza or creating the media company, Uninterrupted.
In response to Ingrahm’s comments, James told media, “I mean too much to society, too much to the youth, too much to so many kids who feel like they don’t have a way out.”

LeBron’s actions and the good that his foundation and the I Promise School have done certify his statement and are representative of his leadership among athletes to do more to help their communities. James’ off-court philanthropic efforts have set the precedent for this new #MoreThanAnAthlete movement. His actions will continue to be a positive example for athletes and other celebrities to think beyond themselves and use their money, power, and influence to be a force for good in the world.