LeBron James can check another box off his long list of accomplishments — a cereal box.
The Akron native and NBA superstar are the next Wheaties Athlete. He will replace last year's spotlight athlete Serena Williams on the cover of the iconic orange cereal box.
The cereal maker is breaking with tradition and adding some other photos to the box.
Aside from an image of one of LeBron's signature dunks, there also are pictures of staff and Akron kids who attend I Promise School, where academically at-risk kids attend classes and are mentored toward not only a high school diploma but a free college education. The announcement Wednesday morning comes as educators from throughout the country are in Akron for Day 2 of a three-day gathering to learn more about the I Promise program and perhaps adopt some of its initiatives in other cities.
The school, created by a partnership between the LeBron James Family Foundation and Akron Public Schools, opened with much fanfare in 2018. James' mother, Gloria, told those attending a breakfast at the conference Wednesday morning that as a single mom she had to resort to cereal for dinner some nights because money was so tight.
And sometimes, she said, it was Wheaties and a young LeBron would marvel at the athletes on the box, never imagining that someday he would join them. "This is something I never dreamed of," she said.
The limited-edition box is available on www.Shop.Wheaties.com now and will appear on store shelves in a few weeks. Wheaties has been highlighting athletes on its boxes for some 85 years. Lou Gehrig was the first of the "Breakfast of Champions" in 1934.
The idea of including I Promise kids and staff on the box, Wheaties said, illustrates that this "Just a Kid from Akron" has "never forgotten where he came from." “We all know LeBron James for his record-breaking basketball career, but his achievements off the court truly set him apart,” said Taylor Gessell, brand experience manager for Wheaties, in a statement. “From starting the LeBron James Family Foundation, to boldly speaking out on racial injustice, to launching the I Promise School – LeBron is a champion of change who is using his sports platform to better the world. We couldn’t be prouder to feature such a positive force of inspiration for the next generation of champions on Wheaties’ historic box.”
Although he is still a bit busy wrapping up this year's coronavirus-delayed season one game away from winning the NBA Finals, James said he is honored to join the long list of athletes to adorn a Wheaties box.
“Growing up where we come from, to see my I Promise kids and families from Akron, Ohio, represented on the iconic Wheaties box means everything,” James said in a statement. “The movement we’ve started in Akron is about doing our part to uplift our community by first listening and then responding with the resources they need. We will continue to do everything we can to create a better future for our kids and our community, and it starts with the students, teachers, and everyday champions you see on this box.”
The back of the box features not only LeBron's history but also includes the history of the school and its mission to help Akron kids.
Michele Campbell, executive director of the LeBron James Family Foundation, said it is partners like Wheaties that have made possible the I Promise School's goal of not only helping all students but their entire families be successful — from quality education to a safe place to live to food on the dinner table.
“Having our students, families, and educators on the Wheaties box alongside LeBron is pretty powerful, and it illustrates that deep and meaningful work cannot be done alone,” Campbell said in a statement. “It takes an entire community to truly rally around those that need it most, and it takes a lot of passion and hard work. But it can be done, and we’re humbled to continue pushing the envelope on what’s possible for these families and all communities across the country.”
Craig Webb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.