jan 30 2016
a family stepped in and made a lasting difference
Back to Main MenuCelebrationsFraud PreventionManage Your AdPlace an AdMarvin Fong, The Plain DealerLeBron James handles the ball as a high school player at Akron St. Vincent St. Mary in a 2001 tournament game against Hillsdale.No. 1 draft pick. Rookie of the Year. All Star. Olympic champion. MVP. Look for more excerpts beginning Monday.Terry Pluto and Brian Windhorst, The Plain DealerChapter 2. Fitting inDuring the 2009 MVP ceremony in the St. Vincent St. Mary gym, LeBron looked out into the crowd and said, "Pam and Frankie Walker were instrumental in me being here and getting this award."When people talk about those who helped shape LeBron James into a Most Valuable Player, you hear many names: his mother, Gloria; youth basketball coaches Dru Joyce II and Keith Dambrot; several pro coaches; NBA stars such as Kobe Bryant and Jason Kidd, who were LeBron’s teammates on the 2008 Olympic team.The book is available online from and at Northeast Ohio bookstores, Walgreens, and selected Discount Drug Mart locations.The Walkers met LeBron when he was a long pencil legged, sometimes scared, often shy 8 year old. They remember him as a quiet, tall, skinny kid, a star on the peewee football field who scored 18 touchdowns in six games for the South Side Rangers coached by Frank Walker. They remember LeBron as a kid who needed some stability while his single mom went through a difficult time and they offered to take him in.Gloria James was 16 when her son was born on December 30, 1984. She lived with her mother, Freda, who was known in her neighborhood as a giving woman, an excellent hairstylist and an anchor to her daughter, who now was a single mom. They lived in a large house on Hickory Street in Akron. But on Christmas Day, 1987, a week before LeBron’s third birthday, Freda James died of a heart attack. Gloria was 19, on her own and unable to make enough money for her and her only child to stay in the house. LeBron has said in interviews that he moved about 10 times by his eighth birthday. Most times the new house or apartment was worse than the last place they stayed. Gloria sometimes seemed overwhelmed by the responsibility of being a mother on her own at such a young age.When LeBron was in the fourth grade, the family moved several times and he was enrolled in different schools. In interviews, he has said he missed between 80 and 100 days of school. He stayed up late, watching television with Gloria. There was no stability, no strong male influence, no sense of structure in his life except when LeBron played for the South Side Rangers. The Walker family and LeBron himself are very careful when they discuss this chaotic time of his life. They don’t want it to reflect poorly on Gloria. At his MVP ceremony, LeBron stood in front of the crowd, looked at his mother, and said, "I still don’t know how you did it." He meant how she managed to hold herself and LeBron together, despite all the challenges faced by a teenage single mother.Video: Brian Windhorst and Terry Pluto talk about their new book "LeBron James, The Making of an MVP""Most people know LeBron as a superstar," said Pam Walker. "A while ago, my daughter said that ‘Hey, LeBron is a superstar!’?" Pam Walker laughed as she said that.That’s because they knew LeBron long before he became The Chosen One, a 17 year old on the cover of Sports Illustrated, the first pick in the 2003 NBA draft. They knew him simply as a young boy who was well mannered, athletically gifted and at a stage in his life when he was vulnerable to being pulled in the wrong direction.When the Walker family agreed to take in LeBron, it was not to take him away from Gloria. It was simply to give him a place to stay, a family to help him feel secure. They had no clue that the NBA was in his future; they just wanted to help him avoid a future that included drugs, jail or other destruction that ravaged inner city boys and men. The Walkers told Gloria that they believed in her, that she could visit her son at any time that the arrangement was temporary, allowing her time to save some money and find a decent place to stay.The identity of LeBron’s biological father is not known, at least not publicly. A few men have made that claim, including one man who served some
facebook besthairbuy serious time in the Ohio prison system. But none produced any proof. Speculation in Akron has long been that the dad may have been Roland Bivins, who played basketball at Akron Central Hower and was killed not long after high school. LeBron has never identified his biological father, and he does not welcome any questions about the subject. A close friend of Gloria’s, Eddie Jackson, later came to be called "a father figure" by LeBron. He would help Gloria and LeBron during LeBron’s high school years, and would be a key player in the early days of LeBron’s negotiations with shoe companies. But Jackson never claimed to be LeBron’s biological father, and he wasn’t always there during LeBron’s childhood.LeBron needed stability. He needed a family.To be an MVP, you need discipline. You need to understand that you are a part of a team. You can’t always worry that someone else may be getting a more lucrative deal or better treatment. You need to know that being an MVP may mean you are the Most Valuable Player to the team, but you are not the only player.