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Could LeBron's loyalty to Akron surpass his basketball legacy?

LeBron James
Posted at 4:00 PM, Feb 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-18 08:36:00-05

AKRON, Ohio — It's not clear how much money LeBron James has given back to his hometown of Akron between his personal contributions, the LeBron James Family Foundation and his many business partners, but it's safe to say it's in the multi-millions, according to Dave Lieberth, an advisory board member for the foundation.

"LeBron has always had a presence in Akron and today his presence is bigger than ever," Lieberth said.

In fact, some believe the king's loyalty to The Rubber City will surpass his legacy as an NBA superstar when the final buzzer sounds on his stellar career.

"It's hard to know what his legacy will be, but I believe that his legacy that is exemplified by the I PROMISE program will eventually outlast even his legacy of points scored and other statistics," Lieberth said.

LeBron will return home this weekend for the NBA All-Star Game this Sunday at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland.

In his teenage years, the spotlight and hype followed James from his playing days at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School to his number one draft selection by the Cavs in 2003.

Since then, James has been named league MVP four times and has captured four NBA Championships, including his emotional title in 2016 when James yelled, "Cleveland, this is for you!" after defeating the Golden State Warriors in Game 7.

But for all his star power on the court, many in Akron admire him more for the way he gives back to the place where he grew up with his single mother, Gloria.

"He has a vision that is much grander than simply helping one kid at a time or one family at a time," Lieberth said.

Among his first philanthropic projects included a partnership with Nike that helped install 20 basketball courts in Akron parks and recreation centers and his Bikeathon which provided new bikes to kids from 2005 to 2010.

His I PROMISE program helps children falling behind in education with a goal of keeping at-risk kids from falling through the cracks.

The innovative I PROMISE School, which has 535 students, also offers a food pantry, A GED program parents and legal support.

"The idea of the I PROMISE School and what has been communicated nationwide is that it is these wraparound services to whole families that make a difference in a child's learning environment," Lieberth said.

James's outreach in Akron continues to expand. The I PROMISE Village provides transitional housing for families who may be in crisis.

In addition, more I PROMISE housing, creating 50 longer-term apartments, is under construction at the corner of Maple St. and Cedar St.

House Three Thirty, which will be housed at the former Tangier, is being transformed into a spot with a sports complex and a hub for hands-on job training.

"Sometimes that's the most difficult thing to get over out of poverty is to get that first job and get a good reference for work skills," Lieberth said.

Perhaps LeBron's crowning achievement is the program through his foundation that provides free tuition to I PROMISE graduates to the University of Akron or Kent State University.

Latasha McCullough's daughter, Arlissa, and son, Arsean, will be two of the recipients.

"To be chosen to have such a great opportunity and to give back and do it with such pride and style and just dignity is amazing," McCullough said.

As James returns home, McCullough, who has met the basketball icon, said she'd like to share another message with him.

"I would say continue to be the wonderful man that you are. I would say, you're amazing."