The basketball star has a soft spot for bikes, which he says gave him important freedom as a kid.
LeBron James loves bicycles. The basketball star has been known to ride his mountain bike to games, host and participate in bike-a-thons, and once owned a stake in bicycle-maker Cannondale. Now he is passing on that love of bicycles to students in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, where a new school, funded and founded by the LeBron James Family Foundation, has pledged to give every student a brand-new bicycle and helmet.
Why a bicycle, you might wonder? Because bicycles represent freedom for kids, and for those living in rough areas of town or with limited access to transportation, having a bike means they can get out when they need to. It made a huge difference in James' life, as he told Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal:
“Me and my friends, when we got on our bikes, we would just ride,” he recalled. “Sometimes we would even get lost, because we’d be gone for so long. But there was a sense of joy and comfort. There was nothing that really could stop us. We felt like we were on top of the world. It was a way of life. If you had a bike, it was a way to kind of let go and be free.”
Michele Campbell, executive director of the LeBron James Family Foundation, elaborated further in discussion with Bicycling:
“LeBron’s bike gave him the mobility he needed to get to safe places after school like basketball courts and community centers. Those two wheels gave him access to opportunities and resources he couldn’t have gotten otherwise.”
In 2011 James started a program called Wheels for Education that gave every new class of third-graders in Akron a new bike and helmet. The new school takes his outreach work to the next level, promising bikes to every student. The Foundation has even established a partnership with a bicycle repair shop in downtown Akron, where students can take their bikes to be fixed. Said Campbell,
“We want to make sure we’re thinking of everything the students might need so they can focus on earning their educations."
Independence, mobility, entertainment, portability, speed -- what more could a kid want? This story is a refreshing change from the fuss over getting tablets and computers into the classroom. Technology has its place, but when it comes to really giving kids a boost, maybe we should take a page out of James' book and turn to the basic bicycle.