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LeBron James writes touching essay praising his mom, Gloria James: ‘She’s my champion’

Dan Devine
Ball Don't Lie

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LeBron James hugs his mother, Gloria, while being presented with the 2009-10 NBA Most Valuable Player trophy. (Nathaniel …

To the extent that NBA fans "know" Gloria James, LeBron James' mother, what they know might not be altogether positive — the in-game carping at Paul Pierce, the soap-opera back-and-forth surrounding a man's claims to being LeBron's biological father, the run-ins with the law, and so on. But the Miami Heat star, four-time NBA Most Valuable Player and two-time NBA champion sees much, much more than just those negative blips on the radar when he looks at his mother, and he recently picked up a pen to share what he sees with the rest of the world.

James was invited to participate in The Shriver Report, a nonprofit media project helmed by NBC News correspondent Maria Shriver aimed at "inspiring conversations that modernize America's relationship with women." In a first-person piece republished at Today.com, James spoke of identifying with the project's goal of "trying to help single mothers who are struggling to make a living and raise their kids, because that perfectly describes my mother when I was growing up."

You think LeBron James is a champion? Gloria James is a champion too. She’s my champion.

My mother really struggled. She had me, her only child, when she was just 16 years old. She was on her own, so we lived in her mom’s great big house in Akron, Ohio. But on Christmas Day when I was 3 years old, my grandmother suddenly died of a heart attack, and everything changed. With my mom being so young and lacking any support and the skills and education necessary to get ahead, it was really hard for us.

We lost the house. We moved around from place to place—a dozen times in three years. It was scary. It was catch as catch can, scraping to get by. My mom worked anywhere and everywhere, trying to make ends meet. But through all of that, I knew one thing for sure: I had my mother to blanket me and to give me security. She was my mother, my father, my everything. She put me first. I knew that no matter what happened, nothing and nobody was more important to her than I was. I went without a lot of things, but never for one second did I feel unimportant or unloved.

Finally, when I was 9 years old, my mother made a supreme sacrifice. She decided that while she was figuring out how to get on her feet, I needed some stability in my life. I needed to stay in one place and experience the support and security that she had felt growing up in a big family. So she sent me to live with my pee-wee football team coach, “Big Frankie” Walker, and his family. She later said to me, “It was hard, but I knew it was not about me. It was about you. I had to put you first.”

The entire piece is worth a read, offering a heartfelt look into a critical and often overlooked element of James' development from talented youngster to prep-hoops phenom to NBA superstar. And if you feel like giving your own mom a phone call just to say thanks afterward, well, there's sure nothing wrong with that.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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