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  • They Both Die at the End – General Review
    Summer break is the perfect opportunity to get back into reading. Adam Silvera’s (2017) novel, They Both Die at the End, can serve as a stepping stone into the realm of reading. The pace is fast, action-packed, and develops loveable characters. Also, Silvera switches point of view each chapter where narration mainly focuses on the protagonists, […]
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    If there’s one book that I believe everyone should read once in their life, it’s my favorite book – Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi. From my course, Queer Literature under Dr. Bill Albertini, I discovered Emezi’s Freshwater (2018). Once more, my course, Creative Writing Thesis Workshop under Professor Amorak Huey, was instructed to present our favorite […]

GOOD TO BE KING

CLEVELAND – For an instant, LeBron James again sees life through the frightened eyes of a fatherless 8-year-old boy.

Sitting in the basement conference room of Antioch Baptist Church, James has just finished handing out Thanksgiving groceries to families as needy as his own once was.

A few weeks shy of his 21st birthday, the Cavaliers’ superstar is allowing a rare glimpse into his well-guarded privacy during an exclusive interview with The Associated Press. He’s upbeat while openly discussing fatherhood, wanting to win an NBA championship in Cleveland, his upcoming contract extension, personal goals and dreams – but then a question about his past seems to awaken painful memories.

Leaning back in his chair, a flashback momentarily walks James back in time.

An only child – and not yet a basketball prodigy – James is being raised in Akron by a strong single mother who has nurtured her son with love but little else. She preaches to him to be fiercely independent, respectful and kind. She tells him to fear no one.

Most importantly, Gloria James teaches young LeBron how to be a man.

Money is tight so the pair move frequently, fleeing tough neighborhoods around the Rubber City where he is exposed to the harsh realities of America’s urban decay.

On a chilly November day years later, he remembers it all.

“I’ve seen a lot of stuff that kids my age just don’t see,” James says, hinting at a darkness he would prefer stay hidden. “That’s where the knowledge comes from. I don’t want to go back to what I’ve seen when I was 7, 8, 9 years old.”

Asked for an example, James pauses and shifts in his seat. Staring at the floor, he’s unsure how to respond.

Things on the street?

“Everything,” he says. “Everything that’s not right. I think that’s where I got my knowledge.”

‘#160;

From poor prodgidy to superstar

It has happened in the blink of an eye, much faster than anyone thought possible.

In two NBA seasons, James has blossomed into one of the league’s premier players – and perhaps its signature star. Last season, he became the fifth player to average 27 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for a season, adding his name to the hoops pantheon of Robertson, Havlicek, Bird and Jordan.

At 20.

On a rebuilt and improving Cleveland team, his game has matured. Through this season’s first 17 games, he averaged a career-high 28.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.9 assists.

“The difference now is that he keeps his teammates involved,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said after James dropped 36 on the Celtics. “He scored 36 in the flow. The guy’s in the third year of his career. To understand the game the way he does, he should coach.”

As he approaches his Dec. 30 birthday – a date he shares with Tiger Woods – James seems to have exceeded all the impossible expectations that accompanied his leap from high school.

Nothing fits him any longer. Not the gloomy predictions, not the endless skepticism, not any of the labels slapped on him.

He is better than advertised. From day one, James has gone beyond boundaries.

“You pay for a ticket to see LeBron perform and it’s like getting a present,” says Minnesota’s Kevin Garnett. James has handled his rise to iconic superstardom with grace and a rare ease for someone so young, rich and talented. As the whirlpool of his A-list celebrity life swirls around him, James manages the pressure. He’s always in complete control.

“To this day, I don’t feel it,” he says, asked to recall when he knew greatness was destined. “I hear my friends and my mom tell me I’m special, but honestly, I still don’t get it. I just want to be levelheaded about things. I think about the times I had before and I don’t want to go back to those times.”

Under fame’s blinding spotlight, James has matured from teenage talent to proven professional, from playful kid to doting parent, from Nike salesman to corporate heavyweight.

At an age when most people his age are handling adulthood’s responsibilities for the first time, James has embraced them with a wisdom beyond his years.

“I don’t know where I got it,” he says. “I don’t read books much. I don’t read newspapers that much. It’s everything that I went through in my itty bitty life, my little bitty 20 years of life, I’ve been through so much.”

‘#160;

Handing out autographs

An hour before tipoff against the Timberwolves, kids wearing No. 23 jerseys in a rainbow of colors stream into Quicken Loans Arena. Across the street, a larger-than-life billboard of James with the message – WE ARE ALL WITNESSES – towers over downtown.

Once inside, Cavs fans of every age jockey for position in an area designated for autographs.

Clutching scraps of paper, magazines, almost anything with James’ likeness on it, the youngsters holler for attention. So close to game time, they settle for a wave as James glides by.

One boy, though, gets special attention.

During warmups, 14-month-old LeBron James Jr. is gently handed to his daddy, who cradles the child and kisses his forehead. James and his girlfriend, Savannah, are raising the baby together.

Being a father has enlightened him like nothing before.

“It’s great,” he says. “Sometimes in the past when I played something might make me lose focus, or I would go home after a game where I thought I could have played better and I would let it hang over my head for a long time when it shouldn’t.

“But now, being a parent, I go home and see my son and I forget about any mistake I ever made or the reason I’m upset. I get home and my son is smiling or he comes running to me. It has just made me grow as an individual and grow as a man.”

James’ father wasn’t involved in his upbringing. James has had male role models such as Frank Walker, an Akron man who first put a basketball in his hands, and Eddie Jackson, once his mom’s boyfriend who has remained close.

There have been others. But Gloria James, who had LeBron when she was 16, remains the light of his life.

“My role model and inspiration has always been my mom and continues to be to this day,” he says. “I want to be the best father I can to my son and teach him everything my mom taught me.

“Now that I have a son, I have no idea how she did it by herself because I couldn’t do it by myself,” he says. “She taught me through all the trials and tribulations. She’s by far my greatest influence.

“She gets all the credit. I don’t know how, but she did it.”

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Running own buisness

The move was unexpected, like one of the eye-popping spins he makes in the foul lane, but James says he knew exactly what he was doing.

Not long after the Cavs failed to make the playoffs last season, James fired his agent, Aaron Goodwin, and turned over his personal and business management to three friends, Maverick Carter, Randy Mims and Rich Paul. With James as their CEO, they formed Four Horsemen Management.

The decision to drop Goodwin was seen in some circles as a sign of trouble. To James, it was essential to his growth.

“I realized that it was time for me to become a man,” he says. “I wanted to be like I’ve always been, the head of everything that I’ve done. When you’re young and the leader of a basketball team, you don’t realize someday you’re going to be the head of a corporation or the head of your own business.”

LeBron James Inc. is booming. Since the summer, James has contributed more than $200,000 worth of relief supplies to Hurricane Katrina victims across the Gulf Coast. He and his team are exploring new endorsement deals, trying to build a sponsorship portfolio rivaling any athlete’s.

“In the next 15 or 20 years, I hope I’ll be the richest man in the world,” James says. “That’s one of my goals. I want to be a billionaire. I want to get to a position where generation on generation don’t have to worry about nothing. I don’t want family members from my kids to my son’s kids to never have to worry. And I can’t do that now just playing basketball.”

James has an upcoming business decision that will shape his career and legacy, and the Cavaliers’ future. Next summer, the club will have its first opportunity to offer James a maximum contract extension.

“That’s just being real. I’m a business man, the Cavs are running a business, too. For my teammates and for the city of Cleveland, I won’t make promises because I don’t know what might happen the rest of this season.”

‘#160;

Life as a role model

Although his duties now include team leader, father and entrepreneur, James also understands his obligation as role model to a new generation. It’s not something he takes lightly.

“Once you become a professional athlete or once you do anything well, then you’re automatically a role model. So, I didn’t say I’m not going to be a role model. That’s ridiculous. I have no problem being a role model. I love it. I have kids looking up to me and hopefully I inspire these kids to do good things.

“The younger guys who come into this league, hopefully I inspire them to do the right thing. I’ve told younger guys already, even though I’m young, I give them tips on what they can do better on and off the court because it’s very important. Kids are our future.”

From where he’s been, James would know.

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