While the eyes of the basketball-watching world waited breathlessly for updates on the status of trade talks surrounding Jordan Hill and Jarrett Jack on Wednesday night, the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player and back-to-back NBA Finals MVP took to Instagram to thank his absentee father for never being there for him:
As counter-programming goes, it was a bit jarring.
The text laid over the photo that LeBron James shared comes from a feature story on the Miami Heat star written for the cover of GQ's March edition by Jeanne Marie Laskas. The story focuses on how James — now 10 years into his virtuosic, first-ballot-Hall-of-Fame, Mount-Rushmore-intended career — handles the unique challenges and responsibilities that come with greatness, not to mention the thorny matter of identity evolution. Yes, money changes you, and so does aging, and becoming father, and becoming a husband, and so does, to some degree, everything, so how do you hew close to your roots while also striving to be better and do more? (It feels like chunks of the stuff James discusses in the feature will, or could, find their way into the writer's room for "Survivor's Remorse," the sitcom based in part on the lives of LeBron and his business manager Maverick Carter that's set to premiere this fall.)
In the course of discussing his triumphs and trials with Laskas, James offers the following thought on how the specific circumstances of his single-parent upbringing helped make him the man he is today:
One person he thanks for all his success is his father. Well, it's not actually a thanks. More of a conversation. "Like, 'Wow, Dad, you know what, I don't know you, I have no idea who you are, but because of you is part of the reason who I am today.' The fuel that I use—you not being there—it's part of the reason I grew up to become who I am. It's part of the reason why I want to be hands-on with my endeavors. And be able to put my guys that's with me now in position. Like Maverick Carter, my right-hand guy in my business. Rich Paul, my agent. Randy Mims, my friend—he's my manager, you know. So me in a position allowing people around me to grow, that maybe wouldn't have happened if I had two parents, two sisters, a dog, and a picket fence, you know?"
The Huffington Post repackaged James' quote as a photo. He liked it, so he opened up Instagram and shared it.
"Because of you Pops! Thanks all along. Could have said why me with u not being there but look what I made of myself," James wrote in his Instagram caption.
James' mother, Gloria James, told ESPN the Magazine's Tom Friend back in 2002 that LeBron's father was "a casual sex partner named Anthony McClelland, who [has] been convicted of arson and theft, to name just two of his many transgressions." Another man, a Washington, D.C.,-based lawyer named Leicester Bryce Stovell, filed suit against LeBron and Gloria James in the summer of 2010 claiming that he was LeBron's biological father and had been the victim of some sort of cover-up to prevent the revelation of that fact. The suit was dismissed in September 2011.
James wrote last month about the flip-side of growing up without a father — his relationship with and love for his mother — in a touching essay included in The Shriver Report, a nonprofit media project aimed at "inspiring conversations that modernize America's relationship with women."
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.
James might be the only person in the world who knows why he's elected to share his thoughts about his upbringing, why he offered that particular take to GQ, and why he decided to signal-boost it via social media on Wednesday night. Whatever the impetus, the result could be that some kid (or, with any luck, a number of kids) who might feel abandoned, cast aside, overlooked and without hope begins to believe that he or she, too, can do something more, can be something more — that their stories haven't been written in stone just yet. That's a hell of a lot more than what most of us manage to accomplish in an Instagram post.
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