How fatherhood might impact LeBron James' free agency

LeBron James was raised in Akron, Ohio, by a single teen mother, Gloria, who did all she could while working multiple jobs. An only child, an appreciative LeBron would often make her a card on not just Mother’s Day, but Father’s Day, too.

A series of father figures came through his life – coaches, mentors, whatever. Some stuck. Some didn’t. LeBron was a prodigy, with a life more in common with a child actor than anything else, a lottery ticket some wanted to help and some just wanted to profit off.

He saw the good, he saw the bad and from an early age found himself craving the foundation of family. As such, it is impressive, but perhaps not a surprise, that one of the great basketball players of all time also aspires (as best as we can tell and as best as any of us can attempt) to be one of the great fathers of all time.

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Father’s Day is Sunday, but this isn’t just a nice Father’s Day column about someone famous proving that his most important job is the one that starts at home, in this case, raising two boys and one girl with his wife, whom he’s been with since high school.

See LeBron with his family: 

8 PHOTOS
LeBron James with his family
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LeBron James with his family
Miami Heat forward LeBron James (C) stands with his sons, Bryce (L) and LeBron Jr. after he was named the NBA Most Valuable Player at a ceremony in Miami May 5, 2013. It was the fourth time in five years that the 28-year-old James had won the game's most prestigious individual award, elevating him among the sport's greatest players. The Heat meet the Chicago Bulls in Game 1 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference semi-finals in Miami on May 6. REUTERS/Joe Skipper (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Cleveland Cavaliers Lebron James sits with his girlfriend Savana Brinson and son Bryce Maximus during the Rookie Challenge at the NBA All-Star basketball weekend in Phoenix, Arizona, February 13, 2009. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES)
Jun 22, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, son LeBron James Jr. and wife Savannah James, celebrate during the NBA championship parade in downtown Cleveland. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James holds his son LeBron James Jr. after his team defeated the Detroit Pistons in Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals basketball series in Cleveland, Ohio, June 2, 2007. REUTERS/Ron Kuntz (UNITED STATES)
June 19, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) speaks to media with his children Lebron James Jr. and daughter Zhuri James following the 93-89 victory against the Golden State Warriors in game seven of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports / Reuters Picture Supplied by Action Images (TAGS: Sport Basketball NBA) *** Local Caption *** 2016-06-20T041053Z_216105063_NOCID_RTRMADP_3_NBA-FINALS-CLEVELAND-CAVALIERS-AT-GOLDEN-STATE-WARRIORS.JPG
February 18, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Team LeBron forward LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers (23) poses for photos with his children LeBron Jr. Bryce Maxiums and daughter Zhuri following the victory against Team Stephen at the 2018 NBA All Star Game at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
LAS VEGAS, NV - AUGUST 26: NBA player Lebron James and wife Savannah Brinson attends the super welterweight boxing match between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor on August 26, 2017 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 12: Honoree LeBron James (R) and wife Savannah Brinson attend the 2016 Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year at Barclays Center of Brooklyn on December 12, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/FilmMagic)
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Fatherhood may also play a role in shaping the NBA in the seasons to come. LeBron is a free agent again this summer, but with his kids getting older, his decision on where to go, if anywhere, is no longer solely about him. It’s about, he says, his family.

“Especially [considering] where my boys are at this point in their age,” LeBron said last week. “They were a lot younger the last time I made a decision like this four years ago. I’ve got a teenage boy, a preteen and a little girl that wasn’t around [in 2014].”

LeBron’s a fixture in his children’s lives. It’s not just publicly, where he has his boys hang around the locker room or when he cheerily FaceTimes his 3-year old daughter, who can’t always come to games due to bedtime.

You’ll find plenty of cellphone footage and TMZ shots of him at their games or with them at movies or the mall. You’ll find very few of him out at nightclubs. Fatherhood is important to him, especially because he was raised without one.

“Just breaking the mode, that’s all,” James told Chris Haynes, then of Cleveland.com, in 2016. “I wanted to be a part of the statistics that breaks the mode of fathers running out on their kids. That was something that I obviously went through. I knew from Day 1 that wasn’t going to be me. So, to have a family and be there for them and be there on a day-to-day basis is important. I know I travel a lot, but I’m a staple in the household and it means a lot to me and I know it means a lot to my kids.”

In 2010, LeBron left Cleveland for Miami to pursue a better opportunity for a championship. (He won two with the Heat.) In 2014, he returned to Ohio to deal with “unfinished business.” (He won one title with the Cavs.)

Now he may leave again because the Cleveland Cavaliers don’t appear capable of defeating the Golden State Warriors, who have annihilated Cleveland in the last two NBA Finals.

That’s where being a father comes in though. And it may be the Cavs’ best – or only – hope to keep LeBron in Cleveland.

This isn’t to say the best plan or even the most fatherly plan is to stay in Cleveland and allow his two boys, LeBron Jr., 13 and Bryce, 10, to remain with their schools, their basketball teams and their friends. The best decision may be to move them elsewhere, perhaps to Los Angeles or Houston or wherever.

That’s up to the Jameses to determine.

Staying is an option, however, under these considerations. The pride LeBron takes in his kids is evident to anyone who has spent a minute around him. And when it comes to LeBron Jr., who has blossomed into a heralded basketball prospect, there is another budding hoops career to consider.

It’s one thing to chase your own dreams. It’s even better to watch your child chase his.

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LeBron James through the years
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LeBron James through the years
File photo of high school basketball star LeBron James getting set for a foul shot during the annual Jordan Capital Classic high school all-star game in Washington, April 17, 2003. James will hold a press conference at his high shool in Akron, Ohio April 25, 2003, where he is expected to state his intentions concerning the upcoming NBA draft. James is expected to be the number one pick should he make himself available for the draft. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn-Files GMH/HB
Lebron James announces his entrance into the NBA draft, during a press conference at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio, April 25, 2003. The six-foot-eight James, 18, is expected by many to be the number one selection in the draft on June 26. REUTERS/Jason Cohn JC/HB
LeBron James (R) shakes hands with National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern after being selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the first pick in the 2003 NBA Draft at Madison Square Garden in New York, June 26, 2003. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton PM
Cleveland Cavaliers first draft pick LeBron James speaks with reporters following a picture session at Gund Arena, in Cleveland, October 2, 2003. REUTERS/Ron Kuntz RK/ME
Cleveland Cavalier rookie forward LeBron James (23) shoots over New Orleans Hornets defenders Baron Davis (1) and David Wesley (4), in the fourth period of NBA action in Cleveland, Ohio, December 23, 2003. James 22 points was the high scorer for the Cavaliers who defeated the Hornets 97-86. REUTERS/Marc Serota MS
Paul Pierce (R) of the Boston Celtics and LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers chat while the scoreboard is fixed during the fourth quarter of their game at Gund Arena, February 9, 2004. The Cavaliers won, 97-89. REUTERS/Ron Kuntz RK
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (C) gets a layup as Seattle Supersonics forward Rashad Lewis (L) and Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki look on, during the first half of the 54th NBA All-Star Game in Denver, February 20, 2005. REUTERS/John Gress JM
Eastern Conference forward LeBron James holds the Most Valuable Player trophy at the 55th NBA All-Star Game in Houston, Texas February 19, 2006. The East defeated the Western Conference 122-120. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James questions a call during their NBA playoff game against the Washington Wizards in Washington May 5, 2006 Cleveland defeated Washington, 114-113, to advance in the NBA playoffs. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
Forward LeBron James, of the Cleveland Cavaliers, works on his jump shot at morning practice during the first day of training camp for the USA men's basketball team in Las Vegas July 19, 2006. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) shoots over New York Knicks forward Quentin Richardson (L) and guard Stephon Marbury (R) in the fourth quarter of their NBA basketball game in New York's Madison Square Garden, November 13, 2006. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James is seen on the court during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles, California, February 15, 2007. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James goes through his pregame powder ritual prior to the start of Game 2 of their Eastern Conference first round NBA playoff basketball game in Cleveland, Ohio April 25, 2007. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James answers media questions before practice for their NBA Finals basketball series against the San Antonio Spurs in San Antonio, Texas, June 8, 2007. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James (L) celebrates after dunking against the New Orleans Hornets David West during the NBA All-Star basketball game in New Orleans, Louisiana February 17, 2008. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James (L) is guarded by Chicago Bulls Thabo Sefolosha (R) during the first quarter of their NBA basketball game in Cleveland, April 3, 2008. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James drives to the basket during the third quarter of their NBA basketball game in Cleveland January 9, 2009. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers Lebron James sits with his girlfriend Savana Brinson and son Bryce Maximus during the Rookie Challenge at the NBA All-Star basketball weekend in Phoenix, Arizona, February 13, 2009. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES)
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James speaks after being named the NBA Most Valuable Player during a ceremony at his alma mater St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio May 4, 2009. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk (UNITED STATES SPORT BASKETBALL)
Miami Heat's LeBron James celebrates after Mario Chalmers scored a three pointer against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, December 25, 2010. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Miami Heat's LeBron James (R) stands with Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade during Game 5 of the NBA Finals basketball series in Dallas, June 9, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Miami Heat's LeBron James watches a shot against the Dallas Mavericks through the net during the second half in Game 2 of the NBA Finals basketball series in Miami, June 2, 2011. REUTERS/David J. Phillip/Pool (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Miami Heat's LeBron James dunks against the Washington Wizards in the first half of their NBA basketball game in Miami, Florida December 15, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Miami Heat's LeBron James speaks at a press conference after his team defeated the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 of their NBA Finals basketball playoff in Miami, Florida June 20, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Dec 19, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) makes a pass against the Brooklyn Nets during the second quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James wears an " I Can't Breathe" t-shirt during warm ups prior to the game against the Brooklyn Nets in Brooklyn, New York, December 8, 2014. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo
June 14, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James speaks to media following the 104-91 loss against the Golden State Warriors in game five of the NBA Finals. at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 19, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) celebrates with the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy after beating the Golden State Warriors in game seven of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 21: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers pauses on the court during the second half against the San Antonio Spurs at Quicken Loans Arena on January 21, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Spurs defeated the Cavaliers 118-115. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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“It’s been a treat to watch, being a parent and seeing my son grow as a basketball player,” LeBron said last week, beaming as a proud dad. “But not only that, being [the] young man who he is today. The kid will be 14 soon. Just seeing him grow and grow and grow to become who he is today has been a treat.”

This is the stuff that has always mattered to him, even if it isn’t what’s on national television or witnessed by fans.

“The best part of fatherhood is seeing your kids in you,” LeBron said in 2016 in that Cleveland.com interview. “The stuff that you used to think you could get away with. The things you thought you were sneaking away with. Now you see your kids trying the same thing and I [am] like, ‘I’ve been there, boy. I know what you’re trying to do. I used to try that. Don’t try to fool me.’

“So that’s a pretty cool thing,” he continued. “Also, just seeing the different personalities from Zhuri, to Bronny, to Bryce. It’s almost like leading a team. You can’t lead them all the same way. They have different personalities even though we’re all growing up in the same household; you have to be able to command them different. That’s a challenge, but it’s pretty cool.”

Now LeBron tries the toughest task of all for every parent: balancing work and family. Do you uproot the family to pursue this opportunity? Or do you stay put? While this decision is being watched by millions, it is also easier than most. LeBron isn’t struggling for a check. There are no bad options. The choice is being made from a position of power, not desperation.

Shed no tears for LeBron. That doesn’t mean it isn’t emotional and personal and that there aren’t consequences, because this is no longer about just his future.

“My family is a huge part of whatever I’ll decide,” LeBron said.

As the NBA hangs in the balance, happy Father’s Day to all.

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