AKRON, Ohio — For most athletes, the accolades that come along with besting a decades-old scoring record are well-deserved.
For L.A. Lakers superstar LeBron James, who on Tuesday surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s scoring record of 38,387 points, a personal message from his mom, Gloria James, and the LeBron James Family Foundation, likely topped them all.
In a warmly delivered video posted on the LJFF Instagram page, James’ mom wore an L.A. Lakers tee as she acknowledged her son’s athletic excellence, while images of James and his foundation’s I Promise Program rolled across the screen.
“Hey kid," his mom begins. “I wrote this letter to you to express how very, very proud I am of you.”
What followed was an expression of motherly pride in the life-altering support her son’s foundation and the I Promise Program have offered young people and their families in the Akron community since 2011 — years before James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to an NBA championship.
“When I think back to the beginning, you always knew you’d find a way to make a difference,” she said. “Somehow, in some way, you’d give back to the community that gave us so much.”
James has often said his I Promise Program, with its “We Are Family” creed, is a manifestation of the support, and love, he and his mom received from the community when he was “Just a Kid from Akron,” attending Akron schools.
From the beginning, the LJFF I Promise Program — so named for the promise James and the kids make to themselves, their families and the community to be the best they can be — has continued to grow, adding a host of supportive services along the way.
“From a bike-a-thon to a school, to transitional housing, long-term housing, a health center, and a job-training and community center,” his mom said, “to a life-changing movement, you're empowering our kids and families in Akron and communities everywhere to reach their dreams.”
Calling it “the best part of it all,” Gloria said, more good works are still to come.
“There's no ceiling for you and your work,” she told her son.
James’ mom signed off, communicating the pride felt by the foundation, I Promise program students and the Akron community, which declared Feb. 8 LeBron James Day.
“It's incredible how far you've come and to think how far you still can go,” she said. “Congratulations. Love, your momma.”
In addition to the I Promise School, which opened in 2018 for hundreds of the community’s youngest at-risk kids, the I Promise Program has a presence in schools across the Akron Public Schools District.
As kids advance through the program, all those who graduate from high school and complete specific academic and community-service goals become eligible for a four-year college scholarship, which in 2015 James partnered with the University of Akron to provide.
An example of the wrap-around services the foundation offers families, the I Promise Too program is for parents of active I Promise students who want to earn their high school GED.
A nod to Akron’s area code, House Three Thirty, the foundation’s multi-use center housing facilities for education, job training and community gatherings, is expected to host a grand opening soon, the foundation said.
A primary-care health center for I Promise Program participants and the Akron community, I Promise HealthQuarters is also planned to open in the near future.