The power forward
One of the NBA’s most talented players, LeBron James has striven for excellence not only in basketball, but also in his philanthropic and creative pursuits
On his website, LeBron James describes himself as a philanthropist, businessman and athlete. In the 11 years since the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted him out of high school, this native of Akron, Ohio, has proven himself both on and off of the basketball court. “A lot of people focus on LeBron’s statistics, and certainly they are remarkable. But what really sets him apart as a player and a teammate, you can’t find in the box scores: things like attitude, work ethic, and a complete commitment to winning,” said Gordon Gund, former principal owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, in 2004 when the team announced James as the NBA’s Rookie of the Year. James, then 19, became the youngest player in the NBA to ever receive the award. He also broke numerous records during that first season, one of which was the youngest player in NBA history to score 40 or more points in a single game. In high school, James led his team to the state championship in three of the four seasons he played, earning him the nickname
“Mr. Basketball” from the Associated Press. During his junior year, he landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated, who dubbed him “The Chosen One.” “When LeBron came into the NBA, he came in with an unprecedented amount of anticipation, excitement and expectation. He met all of our expectations and just kept raising the bar,” says Gund. By the time the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted James in 2003, Nike had already signed him to a US$90-million contract. In 2008, he reached an extraordinary milestone, as the youngest player in history to reach 10,000 career points. He went on to become a four-time NBA Most Valuable Player awardee and led the Miami Heat to back-to-back championships. James also holds three Olympic medals—a bronze from 2004, and two golds from 2008 and 2012. Given how crucial timing and precision are in the game of basketball, James has fostered a keen interest in watchmaking. “I’ve loved watches for as long as I can remember,” James says. “The mechanics have always interested me.” He first became aware of Audemars Piguet through a friend and mentor, and when the brand invited him to visit their manufacture, he readily agreed. “Getting to visit the Audemars Piguet manufacture in Switzerland was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me and my family. It was really cool to see the whole watchmaking process from start to finish. You don’t realize how much goes into every detail of the watch until you see one made.” In celebration of his achievements, Audemars Piguet invited James to collaborate on a very special limited edition timepiece: the Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph LeBron James. “I’m very pleased how my vision and that of Audemars Piguet came together in this watch,” he says. The 44mm timepiece comes in an 18K pink gold case with a titanium bezel. A grey mega tapisserie dial complements the rich combination of the pink gold case, numerals and hands, and grey metal. The watch is fitted with the self-winding caliber 3126/3840, which is partly visible from the sapphire crystal case back (signed by James) with a 22-carat partially openworked oscillating weight. James had a vision of a watch that was masculine yet luxurious, so a single diamond was set into the chronograph push piece at two o’clock, with both pushers and the crown made in black ceramic. The choice of grey for the strap gives the watch a decidedly unique feel, which James is particularly proud of. “I love the strap—we talked about a lot of possibilities and I thought grey would be the perfect color. At first, you really don’t think pink gold and grey will work together. But when you match it up with this watch and this style, it’s a perfect combination.”
Being one of the most recognized players in the NBA has allowed James to gather support for the causes he believes in. He founded the LeBron James Family Foundation (LJFF), which
helps at-risk children stay in school from the third grade to high school and excel academically. “We are most fortunate for the people who have supported us through our lives,” says James. “From supportive teachers and passionate mentors to my awesome mother and my family, my gift was cultivated by the entire Akron community. My mother and I created LJFF so that, regardless of where I was playing, I’d be giving back to the community.” Based in James’ hometown, the foundation works in collaboration with public education institutions to address one of the most alarming statistics in American education—that every 26 seconds, a high school student drops out. The core of the foundation is The Promise, a commitment made by each participant and by James every year. “They promise that they’ll do well in school, they’ll listen to their teachers, they’ll be out in the community and they’ll stay in shape,” he says. “And I make a promise to them, too—that I will continue to be a mentor to them, and that I will hold myself to the highest standard as a role model, on and off the floor.” Whether it’s through athletics programs, after-school study support, or the purchase of books and other educational material, the LJFF and its partners continue to expand and help make sure that kids stay in school and on track, with the tools they need to graduate so they can build a strong foundation for success in life.
LeBron James paid a visit to the first self-owned boutique at IFC mall and was presented with a customized stamp in precious stone by David Von Gunten, Chief Executive Officer of Audemars Piguet Hong Kong and China
The Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph LeBron James; LeBron James signing autographs