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BANKOLE THOMPSON

Bankole Thompson: LeBron James’ other championship

Bankole Thompson
The Detroit News

LeBron James, his Cavalier teammates and the city of Cleveland may be celebrating the NBA championship title this year, but a larger celebration is due the MVP for his $41.8 million donation through the LeBron James Family Foundation’s “I PROMISE” program to guarantee four-year college scholarships to 1,100 children from his hometown of Akron, Ohio, to attend the University of Akron.

“It’s the reason I do what I do. These students have big dreams, and I’m happy to do everything I can to help them get there. They’re going to have to earn it, but I’m excited to see what these kids can accomplish knowing that college is in their futures,” James said in August at the announcement of the donation.

“It means so much because, as a kid growing up in the inner city and a lot of African-American kids, you don’t really think past high school. You don’t really know your future,” he said. “You hear high school all the time, and you graduate high school and then you never think past that because either it’s not possible or your family’s not financially stable to even be able to support a kid going to college.”

This gigantic humanitarian endeavor will seal James’ legacy as a man who truly cared about creating social change.

James isn’t a civil rights leader, social justice advocate or a corporate executive. He is a successful athlete who is stepping off the basketball court to change lives and to transform the city where he grew up by investing in its future.

His act of benevolence presents a challenge for many in the black community, especially those who wield power, influence and access to the resources that could change our communities. James is a bold and shining example for athletes and celebrities, as well as black civic leaders whose efforts sometimes fall short of meeting the glaring needs of communities begging for transformation.

James is answering a clarion call for social change, and his actions follow the legacy of the struggle for equity as reflected in the historic Brown v. Board of Education battle. And more people like James should seriously be taking advantage of every opportunity to reshape the future. Because to abandon our responsibility to educate black children is a travesty of justice and contradicts a universal principle of giving back that is central to black culture.

James, the product of Akron and a single-parent household, is giving back.

And cultural icon Maya Angelou would be proud. “I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back,” she once said.

James surely hopes to help bring more championships to Cleveland, and if that happens, we should continue to applaud him and his teammates at our dinner tables.

But for now, the brother has stepped up, and let’s not just keep grabbing every opportunity for ourselves but rather look back to make a difference in the lives of others the way James is doing. That has a more lasting and positive impact.

Bankole Thompson is the host of “Redline with Bankole Thompson” on Super Station 910 AM Wednesdays and Fridays. His column appears Mondays and Thursdays.