From the first day LeBron James picked up a basketball, he wanted to be like Mike. This week, James passed his sports hero’s career point record. Now he’s looking to inspire the next generation.
Growing up, James and his friends in Akron, Ohio, admired basketball great, Michael Jordan. James studied, imitated, and drew inspiration from Jordan’s amazing dunks, his fadeaway jumper, and his competitive fire. James proudly put No. 23 on his back as soon as he could get it as a high school sophomore. “He was everything,” James says.
So when James passed Jordan’s career points total Wednesday night, he did it in a pair of Nikes with “Thank You, M.J.” written on the side. That tribute doesn’t begin to cover what Jordan meant to a youngster who dreamed of finding a better life through basketball.
“When you’re an inner-city kid from Akron, Ohio, . . . you look for anything that can inspire you,” James says. “ The percentages of guys like myself—single-parent household, only child, underprivileged—[the chance of] making it out is not high at all. M.J. had a lot to do with me making it out, along with my mother, along with the city itself, along with the Little League coaches I had. ”
James has his own impressive 16-year NBA career. Yet he’s still in awe of Jordan, who has always represented the pinnacle of achievement for James. He moved past Jordan’s 32,292 career points (fourth place on the NBA’s career scoring list) during the Los Angeles Lakers’ 115-99 loss to the Denver Nuggets.
James missed most of the tribute video aired during the timeout after his milestone points—because he was crying into a towel.
“You guys have no idea what M.J. did for me and my friends growing up,” James says. “I’ve got to carry it on to the next kid.”
Is there someone who’s been an inspiration to you? There are many ways beyond sports to encourage and motivate others. 1 Timothy 4:12 says: “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” Have you ever thought about being an example to someone else?
(LeBron James, right, shoots and scores as Denver Nuggets forward Torrey Craig defends. With the basket, James passed Michael Jordan for fourth place on the NBA's career scoring list. AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)