In the 80s and 90s, LeBron James was a little kid dribbling a basketball through the streets of Akron, Ohio, humming “I wanna be like Mike” under his breath.
You can understand why last Wednesday left him hiding behind a towel, shielding his face from cameras waiting to capture the raw emotion on his face.
LeBron James had just surpassed the scoring record of his childhood hero, basketball great Michael Jordan. The feat came amid a loss for his team, and it wasn’t a fadeaway jumper or a soaring dunk, but it counted just the same.
By the end of last Wednesday’s game, James, now an LA Laker, had scored 32,311 points in his career. With MJ behind him, James has only to surpass fellow Lakers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, and Kobe Bryant to become the all-time leading scorer in the NBA.
James has the moxie to make it happen if he wants to. Here’s how:
People with moxie follow their dreams, even when others have different visions for them.
James was riding high as a hometown hero. He grew up in Akron, Ohio, and became a national basketball phenomenon while still in high school. He is a wave of young players who went straight from high school to the NBA, landing a spot on the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003 while the ink was still drying on the diploma he earned from St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.
He enjoyed massive popularity with the Cavaliers and was one of the most popular players in the NBA. One thing eluded him, however: an NBA championship. As a result, it became clear that he would need to leave Cleveland if he was ever to fulfill his dream.
He opted to become a free agent in 2010 and very publicly weighed a decision to leave Cleveland and join the Miami Heat. Unfortunately, when he decided to take his talent south to the Miami Heat, his reputation went south, too. He became one of the most hated sports figures in America and the subject of frequent jeers on and off the court.
But the decision proved to be a good one for James. He not only won his NBA championship with the Heat (twice!), he returned to Cleveland and led them to a title victory, too.
The more straightforward narrative for James would have been to remain in Cleveland and bask in the adulation. But he wanted something more than jersey sales and love and endorsement deals. He wanted a championship ring. It takes moxie to leave what is comfortable pursuing a goal, and James has it.
People with moxie don’t just play forward; they pay it forward.
Last year, James fulfilled a long time dream by opening the I Promise school in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. The school serves the most at-risk students and their families and is designed to echo James’s love and support in his critical childhood years.
His mother Gloria was just 16 when her son was born, and she struggled to support the family. Their lives were unstable, and the young family frequently moved from apartment to apartment. Finally, however, a coach recognized James’ athletic talent early and took him under his wing. With the support of that coach and his family, James’ life stabilized, and he got on the track that led to his future success.
The I Promise school does more than support students, it aims to support and nurture the entire family with educational and skill-building support for parents, and a bike for every student.
People with moxie always remember who helped them succeed in life. But, it takes an extra measure of moxie to turn around and do the same for others following behind you.
People with moxie see several plays ahead.
In 2018, James made another bold move and went to the LA Lakers, where he will likely finish his career. However, James’ move to LA this season may be more about his life after basketball than it is about basketball itself. He’s nurturing a blossoming production studio, and a move to the epicenter of the film and television industry makes a lot of sense.
James founded SpringHill Entertainment in 2008 with childhood friend Maverick Carter. The production company has already produced Survivor’s Remorse, a scripted series that ran on Starz for four seasons, and has projects underway with NBC, the CW, HBO, and Netflix.
James is also moving in front of the camera with a starring role in Warner Bros. reboot of Space Jam. None other than Ryan Coogler, director of Black Panther, the film is being produced. James has other key acting credits, including a supporting role in the 2015 comedy Trainwreck, which starred Amy Schumer.
It takes moxie to look ahead to your next move and set yourself up for success, and James has it. Will he one day have a few gold figurines to add to his collection of rings? Time will tell.
What would you ask James in a red carpet interview?