LeBron James Museum offers a full view of the athlete’s decorated career - GulfToday

LeBron James Museum offers a full view of the athlete’s decorated career

LeBron 3

The museum takes a room-by-room look at The Kid from Akron – his upbringing, family, career and philanthropy. TNS

Before he was king, LeBron James was a kid – a Ruffles Cheddar and Sour Cream chips munching kid, who lived in an Akron apartment and who had dreams of becoming great. His life is partitioned out in the LeBron James Museum, a room-by-room thematic curation, from his accolades on the court to the minute details of his life. The museum, which opened on Saturday at House Three Thirty in Akron, offers a well-culled look at LeBron Raymone James who, at 38, is in his 21st NBA season. Arizona artist Kris Rhymes created a four-portrait collage of James – the youth, high schooler, the young player and the bearded veteran. Murals also show him at every level, from a baby to his time with St. Vincent-St. Mary High School and each of his three NBA teams — Cleveland, Miami and Los Angeles.

LeBron 2 The details are all over the museum. Tribune News Service

Rooms reflect times in his life, a smart approach and similar to the Joe Jackson Museum, a house in South Carolina that highlights the great baseball player who spent six highly productive years in Cleveland. Fan letters to James are plastered as wallpaper in an alcove that serves as an homage to his followers. The letters will be subbed out regularly with other notes. It’s also a small waiting area outside a recreation of his Spring Hill Apartment, No. 602. “It’s the first apartment they could call their own,” a guide said.

The details are all over the museum. His favourite cereals sit atop the refrigerator. His bedroom includes an old boxy computer surrounded by sports magazines. A shelf is crowded with trophies, sentries overlooking his domain. The living room holds many family pictures near the television his mother, Gloria, bought. A pair of TV tray tables are in front of a couch, the Ruffles splayed on a paper plate.

LeBron 4 The museum takes a room-by-room look at The Kid from Akron – his upbringing, family, career and philanthropy. TNS

As Jay Z’s “My 1st Song” plays, you can wind through the rooms and see reflections of the boy – a remote-control Hummer sits on the floor – as well as the man LeBron becomes. His high-school locker room is recreated, with blackboard scribbles and a line of five lockers – James’ is flanked by those of his close friends and teammates - Romeo Travis, Dru Joyce, Willie McGee and Sian Cotton.

You see the words “discipline” and “sacrifice” – two tenets he took to heart and which propel a work ethic that pushes James, who is the league’s all-time leading scorer with more than 39,000 points.

James’ life has been devoid of serious controversy. And there is little about the very nominal side of any negative issues in his life, like the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s overbearing scrutiny of his amateurism and the initial backlash from Cleveland fans after James signed with Miami. But the museum offers a smart, colorful, energetic collection of artifacts.

Two things primarily make the museum stand out: While many items are preserved under glass, like James’ white suit from the 2003 NBA Draft, much of the collection is out in the open. It’s as if visitors are given a rare, front-row seat to a big game, a chance to watch their stars and idols up close.

LeBron 5  Rooms reflect times in his life. Tribune News Service

The other aspect: Very little is interactive. Don’t expect video games, question-and-answer kiosks or similar hands-on activities. The mementos, the art, the items, photos, objects and other memorabilia tell the story. That’s refreshing. Those items combine to reflect his life: He married his high school sweetheart. He traveled the world and competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He led his teams on the court. And he loves Swensons – a bag of the Akron-based fast-food eatery sits in a locker. And then there’s the shoes.

The museum takes on the feel of a shoe store. Shoes are the one permeating theme, with swooshes and colors and sleek designs, artistic kicks, autographed – all preserved like relics. And it’s in some of those shoes James has graced courts. His accolades are reflected everywhere – in plaques and photos, in sight and sound. A stack of televisions show high-school highlight reels as Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale sing the praises of a teenager bound for glory. The glory isn’t relegated solely to personal accomplishments. James has fostered a sense of community through positive messages for kids in his hometown. The LeBron James Family Foundation’s House Three Thirty brings that point home in the multi-use facility.

LeBron 1  Arizona artist Kris Rhymes created a four-portrait collage of James. 

A philanthropy hallway exemplifies James’ work off the court as a benefactor who held a bikeathon, created the I Promise school and paid tuition for kids.

Visitors can see the words clearly in this row of charitable artifacts: I promise / I will work hard / I will never give up / I will do my best / I will dream big / I will stand tall / I will succeed / I will be strong. That’s really the point of the museum. As James’ career progresses through its twilight, it’s clear his lasting legacy will be the positive reaffirmations that aim to help kids today. The museum is in the space formerly occupied by The Tangier, which has been renovated to hold several eateries, a bar, event space and theatre as well as the room-by-room look at the Akron native’s life and career.

Tribune News Service

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