Two years ago this July I was in need of a white blazer for one of those summer parties in the Hamptons. I headed down to Ralph Lauren, several blocks away from our New York City home. The good news was I found the last white jacket in the store. The bad news, the jacket was one size too small. So I headed up to the store's tailoring department to see if the jacket could be fitted.
To my surprise, LeBron James was sitting on a bench in the fitting room. I could see that LeBron was trying on several expensive and spectacular suits. He appeared to be in the company of another large man who was quietly watching the proceedings. I looked at him out of the corner of my eye and was amazed by how together he looked for a man who was barely 20 years old.
Meanwhile, as I stood in front of a three-way mirror my tailor asked me to put the white jacket on. It was clear that the jacket was too tight around my waist and there was not enough fabric to make the appropriate correction. But, because I had to have a white jacket, I instructed the tailor to do the best he could.
As I was preparing to leave the dressing room, I decided to say a few words to LeBron. I had watched him play basketball on television many times. He is tall, 6'9", fast and a great shooter. From the very beginning he appeared to have great potential.
"I am from Chicago," I said, "I watched Michael Jordan play and met him a couple times."
As if I had mentioned almighty God, LeBron James stood up and looked me straight in the eye.
"From what I have seen, you will be at least as good as Michael Jordan," I continued. "You have great potential."
LeBron stood speechless for a few seconds. He then reached out his hand and shook mine. Then, nodding his head up and down, he said, "Sir, I really appreciate that, I appreciate what you said." His face was earnest and his voice truly sincere. He appeared humbled by the comparison.
We spoke a bit more and then I headed out to the cash register across the room. While finalizing my business I noticed that LeBron was walking across the room in my direction.
"Sir," he said respectfully, "I want you to know how much I appreciate what you said." He then tipped his head to me, shook my hand again, and left with his friend.
From this brief encounter I know that LeBron James is more than just an incredibly gifted athlete. I was struck then by his thoughtfulness, his maturity, by his easy and unassuming manner. LeBron seemed to be a very special person who possessed talent, purpose and decency.
I was thrilled to see him win the NBA's MVP award this year. I was not surprised to hear his humble and gracious acceptance remarks, especially the part where he gave credit to the whole team. How refreshing it was not to hear the "I" word.
For sure, LeBron James is very special, a "most valuable person" for his family, his community and for his sport.
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