You don't have to look far on city basketball courts to see the impact LeBron James has had on a new generation of young athletes.
James has been an influential figure both on and off the basketball court. His professional accomplishments have also helped students identify and reach for their own goals and his foundation, the LeBron James Family Foundation, is helping guide kids to college with free tuition.
"You got to work hard," freshman Buchtel High School student Christopher Livingston. "It’s not going to be easy but it’s possible."
Livingston said he has been watching LeBron play since he could remember.
“He’s an inspiration. Someone who grew up from where I’m from and made it out.”
It’s a sentiment shared by other local students, including recent Cuyahoga Falls High School graduate Paris Blackshear who is planning go to college in Atlanta with hopes of playing basketball and diving deeper into his passion for music.
“It’s always, like, inspiring to see come from this city,” Blackshear said. “We’re not supposed to make it out of here and it’s like he has no excuses for nothing. He’s just great guy.”
Blackshear said his game day routine in high school including spending time watching highlights of James on the court.
“He’s just a no excuses guy,” Blackshear said.
Darrian Lewis, a sophomore at LeBron’s alma mater St. Vincent St. Mary, has hopes to make it to the professional league.
“My dream is to make it to the NBA,” Lewis said. “I feel like if I put the work in I could.”
Cordell Livingston, a freshman at Buchtel High School, hopes to one day be “recognized as one of the greats” and looks at James as a role model. Cordell's motto: “Books and ball.”
“All you got to do is stay in school and work hard in basketball,” Cordell said.
It’s a similar message to what James and his foundation has shared with its focus on education and success in the classroom. It’s has translated into hope, discovery and encouragement for kids looking carve out their own success.
“If you ever want to get to the opportunity that he’s in, it starts in the classroom,” LeBron’s former high school teammate and SVSM Athletic Director Wllie McGee said. “You have to buckle down, and show some discipline and dedication in the classroom in order to give yourself an opportunity to show for your school or receive a college scholarship.
McGee, who is also known as one of SVSM’s “Fab Five” members, has launched the D.A.L.E. program to offer support and activated to the youth in the area, with a focus on education, health care and sports.
“We have the bar set with LeBron and what he’s doing, so let’s try to do more and be better together.”
And it’s that “together” mentality that has also influenced players on the Buchtel High School boy’s basketball team.
“LeBron sets the example of not only being the best player on the court, but also getting people to work together,” said head coach Matt Futch.