02-19-2017  1:08 pm      •     
McMenamins

LeBron Raymone James was born on Dec. 30, 1984, in Akron, Ohio, to Gloria James, a 16-year-old single-mom seduced and abandoned by Anthony McCleland, an ex-con with no interest in parenting. Gloria did the best she could to raise LeBron on her own but that still meant moving frequently, living in the projects, and even temporarily surrendering custody of her son until she could get her finances straightened out.
Fortunately, LeBron found a sanctuary on the basketball court, where he would not only maximize his potential but forge lasting friendships with four teammates he would play with from junior high through high school: Dru Joyce III, Romeo Travis, Willie McGee and Sian Cotton. He was also very close to their coach, Dru's dad, who would serve a critical role in shaping his character during his formative years.
Of course, everyone knows that LeBron blossomed into a basketball phenom who skipped college and went straight to the NBA where in 2009 he became the youngest player ever to be named league MVP at the age of 24. But few are aware of how loyal, humble and unselfish a man he is as well.
To understand why LeBron has remained so grounded despite being nicknamed King James and being surrounded by all the trappings of overnight success, check out "More Than a Game," an uplifting documentary directed by Kristopher Belman. This moving bio-pic chronicles the seven-year sojourn of the Fab Five, recounting both their basketball exploits and the personal challenges each had to face while collectively pursuing theirs hoop dreams.
Here, LeBron talks about the film as he reflects on life and his professional career.

Kam Williams: Hi LeBron, thanks for the time. I'm honored to have this opportunity to speak with you.
LeBron James: Oh man, thanks for having me.
KW: I loved "More Than a Game." Why did you decide to make this movie about you and your childhood teammates?
LJ: I thought it was time, and the footage that the director, Kris Belman, had shot was unbelievable. He followed us around our whole senior year for what was just supposed to be a 10-minute school project. But after he saw what he had captured on tape, he knew it had the potential to be way more than that. And then when he came to me with the first little trailer that he made, I was like, "Wow! I'm on board. Let's make something big out of this."
KW: Well the finished product is very moving. Obviously, I was already well aware of your achievements on the basketball court, but this really related your personal story in a very powerful way. Congratulations!
LJ: Thank you very much. I appreciate that. My life has never been a bed of roses. I think now a lot of people are going to understand where I come from and who I am today.
KW: Part of what is so impressive about you is your loyalty to your childhood friends and your continued connection to your roots, which is something you don't find with a lot of other pro athletes.
LJ: Well, thank you. I'm very humbled by the things I'm able to do on and off the court. I'm grateful to be in this position, and being able to give back really means a lot to me.
KW: What would you say has kept you so grounded?
LJ: My mother, Gloria James, and my upbringing have kept me grounded. When you're a kid growing up in a single-parent household, it sometimes forces you to mature a lot faster than you might want. In my case, I had to become the man of the house very early. My childhood was never great. We moved from place to place a lot. There were times when we had no definite place to stay. So, a basic level of security was not always there. Therefore, when you finally make it out, and you become who I am today, you're humbled by the memories of those situations. You're kept grounded by those reminders that you didn't always have it all.
KW: What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?
LJ: My childhood… my childhood was my biggest obstacle.
KW: Rev. Florine Thomspon asks, do you see yourself as a mentor today?
LJ: Absolutely!
KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
LJ: Honestly, no. I'm very open about myself. And between the movie and my autobiography, I'm putting everything I've been through in these 25 years of my life out there. So, there's really nothing that hasn't been said.
KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
LJ: Am I ever afraid? Of course. I think everyone experiences those moments.
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
LJ: Definitely! I'm very happy.
KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
LJ: About two minutes before I started speaking with you. [Laughs]
KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
LJ: "Shooting Stars."
KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What music are you listening to?
LJ: "The Blueprint 3" by Jay-Z.
KW: The Laz Alonso question: How can your fans help you?
LJ: By just continuing to respect and to embrace the way I play the game of basketball. And I'm going to continue to respect them.
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
LJ: A great father, a great friend, a loyal person and someone who's always trying to make a difference.
KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
LJ: When I cook, my favorite thing to make is grilled cheese sandwiches. [Chuckles]
KW: The Flex Alexander question: How do you get through the tough times?
LJ: By remembering my upbringing. That was as tough as it could get for me. There's nothing that could happen in my life right now that could be as hard.
KW: Rev. Thompson also asks, what is your greatest source of motivation?
LJ: My family. My two sons are my greatest inspiration.
KW: Some readers sent in basketball questions. Attorney Peter Brav asks how do you think it will be on the Cavaliers this season with your longtime center, Zydrunas Ilgauskus, having to share playing time with Shaq?
LJ: I think it'll be great adding a future Hall of Famer in Shaquille O'Neal and having a couple of complimentary guys like that on the team
KW: Laz: Lyles wants to know if you would have liked to see Iverson come to Cleveland.
LJ: Allen Iverson is also a future Hall of Famer. Any Hall of Famer who wants to play alongside is always welcome.
KW: Peter, who I suspect is Jewish and 54 and plays basketball, also asks: Who is the best 54 year-old Jewish basketball player you know?
LJ: [LOL] I don't know. I have a lot of Jewish friends, but I've never seen them on the basketball court.
KW: Yale Grad Tommy Russell has a question for you about politics. What do you think about the Obama administration's acquiescence to the proposed missile defense system in Eastern Europe? How do you think that will affect our diplomatic relations with Russia?
LJ: Well, I think Obama's doing what best for the country. He's an unbelievable guy. Very intelligent, very calm and very humble. So, I'm very confident that he's always going to do what's best.
KW: Karla Thompson would like to know, whether you make time to reflect on all your achievements and to thank God for how far you've come?
LJ: I wouldn't be anywhere without the Man above. I appreciate and try to take full advantage of my God-given talents. So, yes, absolutely!
KW: Karla also asks, are there any goals you have not yet achieved thus far?
LJ: Yes, winning the NBA Championship
KW: Mike Ehrenberg says he saw you play in Trenton during your senior year of high school. It was your first game back after you were reinstated following your suspension for accepting a couple of jerseys from a clothing store. What are you memories of that day?
LJ: I was very excited and very emotional, because I just couldn't wait to get back on the basketball court.
KW: How do you want to be remembered?
LJ: As a very, very great basketball player, but more important than that, as just a great person who dedicated himself to kids and to giving back.
KW: In the movie, you describe your junior high and high school playing days this way: "It was basketball, but it was more like friendship than anything." What did you mean by that?
LJ: It was wonderful to make lasting friendships with a great group of guys, and also to have a great coach who was willing to serve as a father figure. I wouldn't change it for the world. I still have those guys around me to this day. In fact, I spoke to all four of them just this morning, as well as to my coach. I feel fortunate and blessed to still have that kind of access, because you don't see that very often in life.
KW: You have such deep roots in Ohio. Will you really seriously consider playing anywhere else when your contract expires?
LJ: I love my hometown of Akron, and I love the fans of Cleveland. They've given me everything, so I'm just looking forward to this season which is going to be great.
KW: Well, thanks again LeBron, and best of luck this season.
LJ: Thank you.

 

 

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All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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