LeBron James has more awards in his NBA career than an entire team could possibly want. Four MVPs. 15 All-Star appearances and 14 All-NBA selections. Three championships. But if he were going to make room in his trophy case for anything, it would be for this. Tania Ganguli of The L.A. Timesreports that James has been nominated for the season-long NBA Cares Community Assist Award. The award, in its monthly form, is described as follows on NBA.com:
“Every month, the NBA chooses one player from across the league for the NBA Community Assist Award presented by Kaiser Permanente. The award honors the NBA player who best reflects the passion that the league and its players have for giving back to their communities. This player is recognized for his outstanding efforts in the community and for his ongoing philanthropic and charitable work!”
The yearly award is a fairly new phenomenon. It has been given out in only the past four seasons, with Russell Westbrook, John Wall, Isaiah Thomas and Kevin Durant as the winners. James is competing with Jarrett Allen, Bradley Beal, Mike Conley, Tobias Harris, Damian Lillard, Khris Middleton, Donovan Mitchell, Dwight Powell and Pascal Siakam for the award, which is decided upon by fans and an NBA panel.
With all due respect to the other nominees and their worthy contributions to their communities, this award belongs to James. He earned it the moment he opened a school in Akron and clinched it when the data showing its merits began to pour in. The I Promise School opened its doors to underprivileged students this school year and has been a resounding success. According to Erica L. Green of The New York Times, “Ninety percent met or exceeded individual growth goals in reading and math, outpacing their peers across the district,” and provides services to both students and parents unmatched by almost any other public or charter school.
In addition to extended after-school activities, free bikes and helmets and a STEM-based curriculum, students are assured free tuition to The University of Akron upon graduation. Parents, meanwhile, have access to GED and job-placement services and even a barbershop. The school has exceeded even its wildest expectations so far, and the funding James has supplied both directly through his foundation and indirectly through his name and influence have been instrumental in giving students with limited academic opportunities a chance to thrive in the classroom and outside of it.
NBA players are charitable even by the lofty standards other professional sports set. But even among them, James stands out. What he has accomplished in his hometown over the past year is nothing short of remarkable, and he should be given the league’s highest community honor to reflect that.