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There has been a lot of talk about LeBron James and other athletes using their platforms to spread awareness about social issues and promote positivity. Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham sparked a social media backlash after directing LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and other outspoken NBA stars to “just shut up and dribble.”
According to USA Today, James has done much more than dribble during his 15-year NBA career.
The average age of retirement in the U.S. is 63 years old, but for NBA players it’s much closer to 30. At 33 years old, James has shown no signs of slowing down, neither on the court nor off. He continues to play at the top of his game and is arguably the greatest basketball player of all-time. But he also spends his off days doing much more than just dribbling.
If LeBron only focused on his playing career and ignored all his off the court charitable ambitions, there wouldn’t be $41 million earmarked for full-ride scholarships at the University of Akron, or nine parents who received GEDs through the I Promise Too program, or a new school opening for 240 at-risk third- and fourth-graders, or 23 high school students who spend their time mentoring younger students, or, the LeBron James Family Foundation, or the I Promise program for an additional 1,200 at-risk Akron students in grades 3 to 9.
“Without LeBron James outside of basketball, I’m going to tell you we would have had children who dropped out of school,” said Michele Campbell, executive director of the LeBron James Family Foundation. “We have 1,200 kids who are behind in school, but because of LeBron James they are catching up and believe they belong on a college campus and believe they can be educated. They believe they can be anything.”
LeBron is a three-time NBA champion, four-time NBA MVP, three-time NBA Finals MVP, will finish his career as a top-five all-time scorer and assist leader — a future Hall of Famer for sure. But there is so much more to this kid from Akron.
“If it was just basketball for him, what a waste that would be,” Campbell added.
Though James certainly has more spotlight than any athlete since Michael Jordon of the 1990s or Tiger Woods of the 2000s, there are so many more people in the sports industry doing great work. Approximately 95.4% of Americans participate at some level of charitable donations and giving. Additionally, many world-famous (and plenty of not so well known) athletes start up charity foundations of their own, organize projects in at-risk communities, and do great work for the less fortunate around the globe.
The Baltimore Sun reports that current NBA player Rudy Gay (San Antonio Spurs) is looking to improve Baltimore’s struggling community by building playgrounds across the city to provide kids with outlets to avoid violent and troublesome lifestyle.
“I have a charity, but I’ve always been very direct in what I wanted to give back to,” Gay said, who is orchestrating the creation of Baltimore playgrounds and even offers compensation to kids who volunteer to help. “Obviously, there’s a lot of drug dealing. There’s a lot of killing. There’s a lot of gangs in Baltimore. That all stems from a sense of hopelessness and a sense of struggling. If I can give kids an actual face and a positive way to make money, that keeps them off the streets.”
Across the country in Portland, there are 132 playgrounds in the city, but there are still issues surrounding the community. Luckily, the Trail Blazers are doing their part to help.
Portland’s potentially future NBA MVP Damian Lillard has been helping “Rip City” through charitable donations as well. As part of Foot Locker’s Week of Greatness, where the players support charity foundations, Lillard donated 500 pairs of his own shoes and spoke to the city’s youth to encourage them to give back to individuals in need.
In addition to LeBron, Gay, and Lillard, there are hundreds more NBA athletes and other individuals within the sports community that are doing all they can to make their communities and the world a better place.
“We don’t know what’s in the future, but we will come up with a great plan,” James added. “We will definitely not shut up and dribble.”