With the NBA regular season winding down, Miami Heat star LeBron James has a decent chance to threepeat as the league’s MVP. But even if he doesn’t gain ground on current favorite Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls, James will at least break ground with his latest off-court venture – something unique among pro athletes.
It’s a Web-based animated series called “The LeBrons,” and when the program debuts on April 6 the superstar forward will no doubt be hoping to put on good shows for both the home fans at American Airlines Arena and visitors to “The LeBrons” YouTube channel. With a game against the visiting Milwaukee Bucks and the premiere episode of “The LeBrons,” performances of a completely different nature are what that day will bring on and off the court for James.
“The idea for the creation of the show began with a series of Nike television commercials introducing four characters that represented four different sides of my personality: Kid, Wise, Business and Athlete,” James said in an interview over email.
“I decided to create the new series loosely based on these characters, told through the point of view of Kid, that would take place in Akron, Ohio, my hometown,” said James, who lends the voice of the cool and confident Business in this, his foray into digital entertainment.
Each episode will convey positive, youth-targeted messages for a generation whose parents might have grown up watching another show of like genre.
“‘The LeBrons’ has a style a little bit similar to ‘Fat Albert,’ and will be done in a fun, edgy way that youth can relate to,” James said, referring to “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” that ran on Saturday morning television in the 1970s and ’80s. “The main thing is that we’re going to have a message behind every episode – like how important school is, being trustworthy and families learning how to stick together through hard times.”
Bill Cosby, the driving force behind “Fat Albert,” relied on CBS to spread his family-friendly morals before syndication and home video came along. For James, who’s inarguably among the most popular active athletes in the world, he’s starting out with practically the entire Internet-accessible world as his potential audience.
“I hope to use technology to change the rules of creating a show,” said James, whose own company Spring Hill Productions and Believe Entertainment Group created the series. “Launching ‘The LeBrons’ online, I’ll be able to really appeal to young people in an innovative, new way and reach everyone who follows me on the Internet, especially [on] LeBronJames.com, Twitter and Facebook,” James said.
To watch the show, kids first need to have access to computers, and James is aware that not everyone has one at their technology-hungry fingertips. Doing something about this, James teamed up with the show’s lead technology sponsors, Intel and HP, to see to it that “The LeBrons” not only teaches youths lessons in altruism through story, but by action. A portion of the proceeds from the series will be used to purchase HP computers powered by Intel Core processors and donated to Boys & Girls Clubs of America in support of its education initiatives.
“The real opportunity with ‘The LeBrons’ is to give back to today’s youth, and through the show we’re continuing our work with Boys & Girls Clubs of America to help make an impact,” James said. “It shows how big a difference we think technology can make in the lives of today’s youth.”
James realizes that in his profession the “net” is something to shoot through and not log onto, and guarding power forwards is a more valued skill than knowing PowerPoint. But not everyone can grow up and get a college basketball scholarship or play in the pros as James has done, which is another reason he believes exposure to technology is important at a young age.
“Today’s youth are so much more advanced because of computers,” said James, who said he had “some” technology while growing up in the projects of Akron, but having more could have opened doors to opportunity, growth and development.
Growing up as an inner-city kid, you don’t have a lot of options, he said. “I believe it’s about being well-rounded and always trying to be your best no matter what your pursuit is. Young people today are growing up with all different kinds of talents and abilities, whether it’s basketball or something else, and there are so many influences like family, friends, education and technology that affect their future and opportunities.”
Some of those themes will be addressed in the 10-episode first season of “The LeBrons.”
“Like showing youths of all ages how to be a good person, no matter what their circumstances are,” James said.
Being a positive influence to youth is the driving force behind the series for James, whose LeBron James Family Foundation has benefited his hometown of Akron, the Boys & Girls Club of America and other causes.
“I never imagined we’d be doing this show,” James said, “but like most young people, I always wanted to be a hero growing up, and the show should inspire young people to always try to be their best, to learn the importance of helping others, and to go after their dreams.”