The "King James" Standard: How Lebron Leads a New Era of Athlete Philanthropy

Lebron James opens IPromise School in Akron, Ohio.

Lebron James opens IPromise School in Akron, Ohio.

It’s been a couple of weeks now since I started this blog post…..many distractions kept me from writing about this at the most opportune time at the end of Summer, when The Lebron James Family Foundation announced the opening of a new public school. But as students at IPromise School have officially settled into their school year start, I’m reminded that creating a legacy off the court makes you relevant at any time, not just before a big game or after a buzzer beater.

As someone who loves the intersection of sport and philanthropy, there has never been a more exciting time, as more and more athletes use their platforms built on physical superiority to become examples of what it means to be a superior human being.

Based on his own experience, Lebron James, who missed 83 days of school as a fourth grader, has set out to make an impact on at-risk students. That impact will now grow with the 240 third and fourth graders who make up the inaugural class of this first-of-its-kind public school. The IPromise School will truly create generational change in Akron and beyond, not only supporting first through eighth graders, but also their parents who are offered GED classes and job placement assistance.

In a way that Chuck Taylor changed the landscape of celebrity-endorsed athletic shoes by improving, promoting and putting his name on a product, Lebron James has now done the same for endorsing philanthropic movements. I call it “The King James Standard” and it’s not only changing the game, but as a benefit, the world.

The expectation for athletes used to be donations or a volunteer day at a local youth club/ sports organization and with Lebron as a shining example, it is transforming into something much more meaningful and memorable. For now we’ll still speak of it as a novelty, a professional athlete’s choice and thoughtful intention to use their fame and success to create a life-changing movement instead of a day-making moment, but not for long.


To cement your legacy as an athletic icon in the lives of the next generation, you must be great and do good, and you will need more than a signature shoe that kids pay for, you will need to create a way for kids to pay it forward.

What a gift for those working towards this new standard and following in Lebron’s large footsteps. Not only do they have athletic prowess, multiple brand partners, maybe an endorsed shoe and/or apparel item, but they get to use their platform to make real change in the world and they don’t have to do it alone. The best part, we’re just beginning to see collaborative initiatives and contract commitments from athletic footwear and apparel sponsors, a model where athletes, brands and communities all win.