December 30th, 1984 was a Sunday. A rookie by the name of Michael Jordan was recovering from 39 minutes played in a loss from the Atlanta Hawks. They lost 104 – 101 to a strong Hawks team led by Dominique Wilkins, Doc Rivers, Kevin Willis, and Eddie Johnson. He just started his NBA journey that would lead him to the title of the greatest player ever to play the game.
In Akron, Ohio, a 16-year-old girl was giving birth to a baby boy. With the father out of the picture, she had the odds stacked against her. This was a story told too often, a young African-American woman bringing a child into the world, probably hoping he would finish high school, maybe even college if everything goes right. A steady job, life not connected to crime would be a fantastic success. Gloria Marie James had no idea baby LeBron would do much greater things.
Try and go back to that time (if you were alive then). Ronald Reagan was the President, “Like a Virgin” by Madonna was playing on the radio and “Beverly Hills Cop” introduced Eddie Murphy as a new movie star. The Cold War dominated the news cycles as USSR (Yep, still going strong at the time) and western countries performed nuclear test almost every other day.
We met Lebron when he was in high school. Already a basketball phenom, labeled to be the next big thing, LeBron was a sure thing. It is easy to forget that for a long time, he was just one of many kids living your everyday life, filled with challenges. Moving from apartment to apartment while his mother was trying to find steady work, Gloria James realized her child needs a stable environment.
She made a decision that had to have been painful and terrifying for any parent – she agreed to have LeBron to move in with Frank Walker, a local coach who introduced LeBron to basketball. Those are the moments we don’t think about that made all the difference in making The King. Nothing was guaranteed, only hope and hard work to try and make something from himself. All that was enabled by a mother decides to sacrifice her basing instinct and not be there for her kid, aware that someone else can give him a chance to maximize his potential.
34 year later, he is up there in the conversation with the rookie who played when he was born as the greatest player ever. Three times NBA champion, three times Finals MVP, four times regular season MVP, 14 times All-Star and a lot more.
Happy birthday to LeBron Raymone James Sr. , and thank you to Gloria James. She made all of it possible.