LeBron James was born on December 30, 1984 in Akron, Ohio, to 16-year-old Gloria Marie James. His father, Anthony McClelland, had an extensive criminal record and was not involved in the boy’s life. James attended St. Vincent–St. Mary High School, an exclusive, mostly white, Catholic school in Akron where he became a nationally acclaimed basketball player. …
LeBron James was born on December 30, 1984 in Akron, Ohio, to 16-year-old Gloria Marie James. His father, Anthony McClelland, had an extensive criminal record and was not involved in the boy’s life. James attended St. Vincent–St. Mary High School, an exclusive, mostly white, Catholic school in Akron where he became a nationally acclaimed basketball player. During an August 2018 appearance on the HBO talk show The Shop, James recounted that when he first enrolled at that school, he viewed white people with suspicion and disdain:
“I was like, I’m not fu**ing with white people. Cuz I was so institutionalized, growing up in the hood, it was like they [whites] don’t fu** with us, they don’t want us to succeed, the hierarchy [raising his hand high to indicate that whites were at a higher socioeconomic level than blacks], and then we’re here [lowers his hand to indicate the lower status of blacks], like, matter of fact we underneath this chair. So I’m going, like, I’m going to this school to play ball, and that’s it. I don’t want nothing to do with white people, I don’t believe that they want anything to do with [me]. Me and my boys we going to high school together and we here to hoop. So that was my, like, initial, like, thoughts and my initial shock to, like, white America when I was 14 years old, for the first time in my life.”
After completing high school, James was selected by the National Basketball Association’s Cleveland Cavaliers as the first overall pick of the 2003 NBA draft. He went on to become one of the greatest professional basketball players of all time with the Cavaliers, the Miami Heat, and the Los Angeles Lakers. James also has been outspoken about his leftwing political and social views.
To protest a highly publicized February 2012 altercation in which a white Hispanic man had shot and killed a black teenager named Trayvon Martin in Florida, James and several of his Miami Heat teammates posed together for a photo in which they wore hooded sweatshirts (like Martin was wearing at the time of his death). James then posted the photo on Twitter.
James was outraged by a July 17, 2014 incident where a 43-year-old African American named Eric Garner died in Staten Island, New York, after having resisted the efforts of several white police officers (under the supervision of a black NYPD sergeant) to arrest him. One of the officers at the scene, Daniel Pantaleo, put his arms around the neck of the much larger Garner and took him down to the ground with a headlock/chokehold, at which point Garner reportedly said “I can’t breathe.” Garner subsequently suffered cardiac arrest in an ambulance that was taking him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead approximately an hour after the initial altercation. City medical examiners concluded that he had died as a result of an interplay between the police officer’s hold and Garner’s multiple chronic medical infirmities. “I Can’t Breathe” became a popular slogan of demonstrators who later protested Garner’s death in rallies across the United States. When a grand jury decided in December 2014 not to indict Officer Pantaleo, James wore a T-shirt that bore the words “I Can’t Breathe” during a pre-game warmup session in Brooklyn.
James was similarly disturbed by an August 9, 2014 altercation in which a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri shot and killed an 18-year-old black male named Michael Brown, just minutes after Brown had perpetrated a strong-armed robbery of a local convenience store. Brown’s death set off a massive wave of protests and riots in Ferguson, which eventually grew into a national movement denouncing an alleged epidemic of police brutality against African Americans. The protesters falsely claimed that Brown had been shot in the back while fleeing from the officer, and that Brown at one point had raised his hands submissively in an attempt to surrender but was shot anyway. James, for his part, lamented in a television interview that “racism is still alive.” (Compelling ballistic, eyewitness, and forensic evidence eventually showed that Brown in fact had assaulted the officer and had tried to steal his gun just prior to the fatal shooting.)
In September 2016, James voiced his support for National Football League quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to protest America’s allegedly rampant racism and police brutality by kneeling, rather than standing, during a pregame national anthem: “I’m not a politician,” said James, “but I’ve lived this life and I’ve got a family and what scares me is my kids growing up in this society right now, where innocent lives are being taken [by police] and it seems like nothing is being done.” “I’m all in favor of anyone, athlete or non-athlete, being able to express what they believe in in a peaceful manner and that’s exactly what Colin Kaepernick is doing and I respect that,” James added.
In October 2016, James endorsed Hillary Clinton for U.S. President. “Only one person running [for President] truly understands the struggles of an Akron child born into poverty,” he wrote in an op-ed piece. “And when I think about the kinds of policies and ideas the kids in my [charitable] foundation need from our government, the choice is clear. That candidate is Hillary Clinton.” The following month in Cleveland, James gave a speech at a Clinton political rally where he said: “This woman right here [Mrs. Clinton] has the brightest future for our world.”
When President Barack Obama left office in January 2017, James recorded a personal farewell video message thanking the “unbelievable,” “one-of-a-kind” President for “standing tall every single day,” “leading our country,” and serving as “a true inspiration” to “everybody … who got dreams.” And when Obama turned 56 years old in August of that year, James tweeted him a happy-birthday message stating: “Yes we do love you! Thank you! Enjoy your day.”
In February 2017, James spoke out against President Donald Trump’s executive order which called for a temporary ban on travel to the U.S. from seven foreign countries that were hotbeds of crime and Islamic terrorism. “I am not in favor of this policy or any policy that divides and excludes people,” said James. “I stand with the many, many Americans who believe this does not represent what the United States is all about. And we should continue to speak out about it.”
In May 2017, an unidentified vandal spray-painted a racial slur (the “N” word) on the front gate outside of James’s $21-million-dollar, 9,440-square-foot mansion in Los Angeles. In response to the incident, James said:
“[I]t just goes to show that racism will always be a part of the world, a part of America. Hate in America, especially for African-Americans is living every day. Even though that it’s concealed most of the time, even though people hide their faces and will say things about you, and then when they see you they smile in your face. It’s alive every single day.
“And I think back to Emmett Till’s mom, actually, it’s kind of one of the first things I thought of. And the reason that she had an open casket is because she wanted to show the world what her son went through as far as a hate crime and being black in America.
“No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being black in America is tough. And we’ve got a long way to go for us as a society and for us as African-Americans until we feel equal in America.”
In the wake of an August 2017 incident where a white neo-Nazi at a Charlottesville, Virginia rally had rammed his vehicle into a crowd of counter-protesters and killed a 32-year-old woman in the process, James condemned President Trump’s public response to the tragedy and tweeted: “Hate has always existed in America. Yes we know that but Donald Trump just made it fashionable again!”
At a Cavaliers Media Day event in September 2017, James said of Trump: “He doesn’t understand the power that he has for being the leader of this beautiful country. He doesn’t understand how many kids, no matter the race, look up to the president of the United States for guidance, for leadership, for words of encouragement…. The people run this country, not one individual — and damn sure not him.” At the same event, James lauded the NFL players who, in defiance of President Trump’s recent criticism, continued to kneel in protest during pregame national anthems. “I salute the NFL, players, owners & the fans … there was solidarity, there was no divide,” James said. “Even from that guy [Trump] who tries to divide us.” When asked to explain why he thought so many Americans had voted for Trump in the 2016 election, James said: “Well, I mean, that’s a great question. At the end of the day, like I said, I don’t think a lot of people was educated.”
In a televised conversation with TV personality Cari Champion and pro-basketball star Kevin Durant in February 2018, James said: “The number-one job in America, the appointed person is someone [Trump] who doesn’t understand the people. And really don’t give a fu** about the people…. While we cannot change what comes out of that man’s mouth, we can continue to alert the people that watch us, that listen to us, as this is not the way.” “It’s not even a surprise when he says something,” James added. “It’s like laughable. It’s laughable and it’s scary.”
In February 2018, James said he considered it his duty as a parent and role model to use his celebrity status as a platform from which to speak out on social issues. Among his remarks were the following:
- “I do it because I am passionate about it. I do it because it is bigger than me. I am raising two African-American boys and an African-American daughter. It is hard.”
- “We [ballplayers] definitely will not shut up and dribble. I mean too much to society. I mean too much to the youth, I mean too much to so many kids who feel like they don’t have a way out. They need someone to help lead them out of the situation they are in.”
- “If it is for the greater good then I don’t mind being a symbol. I am not trying to get a reward for it. I don’t think Muhammad Ali tried to get a reward for it. I don’t think Jim Brown or Bill Russell or Jackie Robinson, and the list goes on, tried to get a reward for it. This is just who we are.”
In June 2018, James spoke out regarding President Trump’s decision to cancel the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles’ White House ceremony because of the ongoing controversy involving players kneeling during the pre-game national anthem at NFL games. “It’s typical of him,” said James. “I’m not surprised…. I mean I know no matter who wins [the NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers], no one wants to get invited [to the White House] anyway. It won’t be Golden State or Cleveland going.”
In a July 2018 interview with CNN’s Don Lemon, James said that President Trump had “kind of used sport to kind of divide us.” When Lemon asked James what he “would you say to the president if he was sitting right here,” James replied: “I would never sit across from him…. I’d sit across from Barack, though.”
In October 2019, James spoke out against Daryl Morey, general manager of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, after the latter had posted a seven-word tweet — “Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong” — in support of the masses of people in Hong Kong who were protesting the Chinese government’s recent efforts to deprive them of their civil and human rights. In China, the backlash to Morey’s tweet was harsh and swift: Major entities such as the Chinese Basketball Association, CCTV 5 (the sports channel of China’s top state broadcaster), Tencent Sports (the NBA’s exclusive digital partner in China), and sponsors like the Li-Ning sportswear company and the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, all vowed to suspend their cooperation with the Rockets — thereby raising the distinct possibility that Chinese revenues might suddenly stop flowing so rapidly into NBA coffers. James, who has a lucrative lifetime endorsement deal with the Nike Corporation — which in turn has enormous financial interests in China — stated that Daryl Morey “wasn’t educated” on the Hong Kong matter and thus should have kept his thoughts to himself. “So many people could have been harmed not only financially but physically, emotionally and spiritually” by what Morey said, James told reporters in Los Angeles. “So just be careful with what we tweet, and we say, and we do.” “Yes, we do have freedom of speech,” James added, “but there can be a lot of negative that comes with that too.”
James has a net worth of approximately $450 million. He has accumulated that wealth not only through his basketball contracts, but also by way of his billion-dollar lifetime Nike deal and his stake in such entities as Beats Electronics, Liverpool F.C., Blaze Pizza, and his own SpringHill Entertainment production company.