Tony Dejak/Associated Press
With his Cleveland Cavaliers trailing the Golden State Warriors 3-1 and on the brink of another NBA Finals loss, LeBron James stressed he returned to his home state for more than just a title, per RealGM:
Well, for me, I think from a basketball standpoint, that’s one of the reasons why I came back, but it’s not the main reason I came back. It wasn’t the only reason I came back, and there wasn’t just one reason why I came back.
Me personally, what I’m able to do off the floor as well with my foundation and me being back home and me being — last summer I was able to guarantee all my kids in my program college scholarships. I’m able to do so many things because I’m actually there, hands on, with my foundation and things that go on. I’m able to up lift the youth in my community and also in other communities. Even though you’re able to do it from afar, if you’re actually there, I think it’s even more meaningful to kids that look up to you for inspiration.
Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com noted in August of 2015 that James “announced that [the LeBron James Family Foundation] and the University of Akron will sponsor full scholarships for the 1,100 children currently in his I Promise program in Akron, Ohio.”
Windhorst wrote of the children who ranged from third through seventh grade, “If they complete the program and meet attendance and grade requirements, their tuition will be covered by James’ foundation and the university starting in 2021.”
On the court, many saw James’ return as a critical step in the eventual respite for the title drought that has plagued Cleveland. The city infamously has not won a big league sports championship since 1964, when the Cleveland Browns defeated the Baltimore Colts for the NFL crown.
James wrote a letter in Sports Illustrated in 2014 announcing his decision to come back to the team that drafted him in 2003 after he played four seasons for the Miami Heat. James reached the NBA Finals all four years he played in South Beach (2011-14) and won two rings.
Winning a championship for his home state is about the only thing the Akron native hasn’t managed to do in his career on the basketball floor. The future Hall of Famer is a four-time MVP, two-time Finals MVP, 12-time All-Star and an all-around force who has averaged 27.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 1.7 steals per game in his illustrious career.
His Cavaliers lost to the Warriors in last year’s Finals in six games. If James is going to get Cleveland a title this year, he and his teammates will have to make history, considering no NBA team has ever overcome a 3-1 deficit in the Finals.
The Cavaliers did receive a boost on Sunday when the NBA announced Warriors forward Draymond Green was suspended for Game 5, per Sports Illustrated. Green was given a flagrant-1 foul for an altercation with James and has accrued enough flagrant points throughout the playoffs to merit the one-game suspension.
If James and his teammates can find a way to win Game 5 on Monday at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, they will be a single home victory away from forcing a decisive Game 7.