LeBron James: His legacy on and off the court

The future Hall of Famer will go down as one of the greatest basketball players in history, yet his accomplishments in life extend beyond the hardwood. 
By Will Imbo

From MVP trophies and NBA rings to building schools and his activist work, LeBron James has carved out an iconic legacy that will stand the test of time.

The basketball superstar has been the face of the NBA for the last decade.

What makes that fact even more astounding is that James first entered the league in 2003 - before the advent of Facebook and Twitter.

At 36, the 'King' has shown no signs of relinquishing his crown as he continues to be a major force in the league, posting averages of 25.4 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game in the 2020-21 season. Despite James suffering an ankle injury in March, he should be back in time for the playoffs to help the Los Angeles Lakers defend their NBA title and pursue a fifth championship ring of his own.

Yet despite what happens in the postseason, James' legacy - both on and off the court - has already been cemented in history.

The greatest of all time?

In sports, we tend to 'rank' the stars of the game. "Where does such-and-such fall in the conversation of the best players ever?" When it comes to basketball, James' name is right up there with the best of the best in history.

Such conversations are an apt reflection of his otherworldly talent and accomplishments on the court, but if you're a stickler for hard statistics and facts to back up an argument, consider this:

*statistics subject to change

  • James is the only player in NBA history to have won NBA championships with three different franchises (Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers) as Finals MVP (Most Valuable Player)
  • He has won four NBA championships, four NBA MVP Awards, four Finals MVP Awards, and two Olympic gold medals.
  • James holds the NBA records for most points in the playoffs, is third all-time in points scored, and eighth in career assists.
  • He has been selected to the All-NBA First Team a record 13 times, made the All-Defensive First Team five times, and has been named an All-Star 17 times, including three All-Star MVP selections.

Big things were expected from James when he was drafted first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2003 NBA draft, but no one could have expected how great the kid from Akron, Ohio would become.

Giving back

For all of his incredible accomplishments in basketball, James has devoted equal time and effort to his philanthropic work.

James set up his own charitable foundation (The LeBron James Family Foundation) in 2004 (just one year after he was drafted), whose mission is to create "generational change for the kids and families of James’ hometown in Akron, Ohio through a focus on education and co-curricular educational initiatives."

The foundation also supports the I PROMISE school in Akron, which supports at-risk children by providing them with a stable learning environment, as well as free tuition, free meals, and guaranteed tuition for all graduates to the University of Akron. Additionally, the parents of students at the school receive access to job placement services and help acquiring their GEDs (a high school equivalency diploma).

James grew up in difficult circumstances in Akron to a single mother who struggled to find steady work.

Now, he is putting his own money and time into helping at-risk children and impoverished families in his home town - not to mention the countless other endeavours and charitable projects James is involved in, including supporting non-profit organisations such as the After-School All-Stars, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and Children's Defense Fund.

LeBron James: Businessman, activist, movie star

As you might expect of a celebrity and athlete of his stature, James has been involved in numerous business projects off the court, which includes his digital video company Uninterrupted, a video production company (SpringHill Entertainment), and a designer retail store, to name just three.

He also joined Fenway Sports Group as a partner in 2021, making him a part-owner of the Boston Red Sox, New England Sports Network, Roush Fenway Racing, and Liverpool F.C. (James already owned a two percent share in the Premier League club).

James has also used his voice and influence on numerous occasions in response to social and political issues in an effort to create positive change, notably with regards to the Black Lives Matter movement.

James has also ensured a personal legacy in film and television with cameos in Entourage, Trainwreck, and perhaps most importantly, starring in the upcoming Space Jam: A New Legacy.

After all, what could be a more apt reflection of LeBron James' legacy than starring in the sequel to the first Space Jam, which was released in 1996 starring a certain Michael Jordan?