Challenging Childhood: Raised by a Single Mother, LeBron James’ Unbreakable Spirit on the Path to NBA Stardom


LeBron James’ misfortune is not uncommon in life as well as in the sports world. But it was enough to break the will of any black child born in America in the 80s. Fatherless, homeless, James wandered the streets of Akron, Ohio with his 16-year-old single mother. and live entirely on social assistance. That was the beginning of the difficult childhood years of the current number one star in the NBA.

High school girl Gloria Marie James became pregnant after having sex with mobster Anthony McClelland. There was no love between them, as Gloria later recounted, but simply the satisfaction of physiological needs. Carrying a drop of McClelland’s blood is therefore beyond Gloria’s will. Little LeBron was born on the last day of 1984, one of the coldest winter days of Gloria’s life. At that time, she was only 16 years old.

The first three years things weren’t so bad. Gloria still goes to school every day, leaving LeBron at home with his grandmother and mother. Her two brothers lived together in a large house on Hickory Street, next to a unkempt road lined with old oak trees and a railroad crossing, next to downtown Akron. The tragedy began on Christmas Day 1987, when Gloria’s mother, Freda, died after a heart attack. A few months ago, the young girl’s grandmother left this world. The stability of the whole family is seriously threatened.

Terry and Curt, Gloria’s two brothers, try to keep the house so their sister and nephew have a place to live. But the serious deterioration of the house, combined with insufficient income to cover additional expenses, caused the three brothers to soon become homeless. Each person has to find their own new place to live when no one has a stable job.

Gloria took three-year-old LeBron around the streets of Akron. They lived in friends’ houses. Each place stays for a few weeks or longer, a few months. Sometimes, when she was in a desperate situation, Gloria would bring LeBron to her brother Terry’s house to stay for a few days. Mother and daughter lived on social assistance during this time, when Gloria could not get a suitable job because she could not send her child to daycare.

This time was later described bitterly by James: “My asset is a backpack on my back. I often say to the backpack ‘It’s time to leave’ every time I have to leave a house with my mother.” some household”. Until 1993, when LeBron was nine years old, mother and son moved on average twice a month. They often appear in humanitarian shelters for the homeless, or overnight sleeping places built by churches.

During his fourth grade year, LeBron moved 12 times and missed about 100 days of school. “The boy had trouble moving house. He was confused because he had new classmates at new schools. One time he skipped school because he didn’t know which bus to take to school,” Bruce Kelker – the first football coach by LeBron James – recounted.

Keller, after a chance meeting on the street and noticing LeBron’s outstanding physique, took both mother and son to live with him and his girlfriend in a small apartment. Keller is responsible for picking up and dropping James off, buying practice gear, and teaching rugby, in return for Gloria making hamburgers and cooking twice a week.

But Keller’s small apartment only helped James and his mother live for a few months before deciding to move out. At this time, James’s prominence in football games for children under 10 years old in Akron attracted the attention of Frank Walker, a local youth training expert.

Knowing the difficult situation of James and his mother, Mr. Walker offered to help by taking James to live with his family in the suburbs of Akron. Gloria will have time to find a job, live at a friend’s house and visit her children on weekends. That proposal came just as Gloria was planning to send LeBron to New York to rely on relatives. The 25-year-old girl agreed to a deal with Walker, and that was the turning point that led LeBron James to success in the NBA later.

The Walker family, with two sons about LeBron’s age, brought the homeless boy into the fold. They wake James up at 6:30 every morning, cook him a decent breakfast and take him to school. James also gets his hair cut by Walker every Saturday, and for his birthday, Mrs. Walker makes German chocolate cakes for the 10-year-old boy. “That’s what real family is,” James recalled of his time living in Coach Walker’s house.

After afternoon homework, James started playing basketball with Walker and his children. Although he is a football coach, Walker plays basketball well. He taught James how to dribble and backhand to the basket and realized the boy had great potential. “LeBron was one of the best football players in Akron at that time. But it was his basketball skills that amazed me. Although he was confused in the early days, LeBron improved very quickly, soon surpassing him. away from kids the same age,” Walker told ESPN in 2013.

James played both football and basketball during his youth. It wasn’t until his second year of high school, when he was 15 years old, that he decided to follow Michael Jordan’s path. “It was a wrist injury, I almost broke my wrist after a game. I decided to give up football, even though it was the first sport I loved,” said the Cleveland Cavaliers star. share.

Although Walker was instrumental in nurturing James’ basketball talent to shine on the St. Vincent-St. Mary, it was Gloria’s mother who inspired James the most. “She goes crazy every time she goes to the training ground with James and sees her son play. She even applied to join the club as a volunteer, ready to do the smallest jobs like filling water bottles or cleaning. clean up everything, just to be with LeBron during practice sessions. That gives him strength,” Terry – LeBron’s uncle – recounted.

James has never forgotten the hardships that mother and son went through: “I thank life for that. I thank my father for abandoning me. That helped me bond with my mother, and go through difficult times with her.” the worst and the happiest. She’s not perfect, but I love her more than anything. She not only gave birth to me but also helped me become the person I am today.”

James is currently the star with the most potential to become America’s next billionaire from the NBA, after the legendary Michael Jordan. After signing a lifetime contract worth $500 million with Nike last year, James bought his mother a six million dollar mansion in Florida. Previously, the 32-year-old star bought 10,000 square meters of land in Akron, a place associated with the mother and daughter’s difficult childhood, to build one of the largest amusement parks in the state of Ohio.

“God has taken away many things from me. But he gave me something priceless, which is LeBron,” Ms. Gloria shared when she and James received the 2009 NBA Best Player award.

Since becoming a top NBA star more than a decade ago, James has often been invited by prestigious schools like Harvard to speak to students. These are presentations aimed at inspiring the young generation about success in life. Perhaps no one in the NBA is better suited to those conversations than James. Because his life is the most complete testament to the journey of a boy who overcame a cruel fate and became number one in his field of pursuit.

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