If you’re Chicago or Boston, you have presidential libraries that celebrate the legacy of historic presidents like Barack Obama or JFK. If you’re Akron, you put up a library celebrating the closest native you’ve every had to a president: LeBron James.
The NBA legend’s foundation is partnering with trading card company Upper Deck Sports to bring a LeBron James Museum to House 33, a new downtown Akron development on the site of a former restaurant and entertainment complex that the LeBron James Family Foundation bought in 2020. USA Today described the development in December 2020 as “a multi-purpose space that will provide family resources” such as job training and financial literacy alongside retail and restaurants in the space.
That plan has apparently been upgraded to include the new museum, which will occupy the basement level of the complex and include exhibits that tell the story from James’ upbringing in hardscrabble ‘80s and ‘90s Akron to his rise to the global sports, business and philanthropic elite.
The space will explore how growing up in humble surroundings made him the person he is today.
The next exhibit space will focus on how he honed his basketball skills, winning accolades and championships at Akron’s St. Vincent-St. Mary High School and forging friendships that have lasted a lifetime.
This all leads up to the big show — his NBA career.
From the Cavaliers to the Heat back to the Cavaliers to the Lakers, this large exhibit space will take in his professional basketball career, which includes four NBA championships and two gold medals in the Olympics.
The next exhibit space will take a look at his off-the-court business ventures, such as a pizza business and various entertainment endeavors that include TV shows like “The Wall” and his movies like the recent reboot of “Space Jam.”
An opening date for the new museum hasn’t been announced, and while the plan is for the facility to charge admission, neither has the cost to enter.
The announcement of a LeBron James museum comes as the generational basketball talent is planning for the end of his career, a chapter that has brought speculation over whether James will retire as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers team he joined in 2018 or even possibly rejoin the Cleveland Cavaliers who play about 40 minutes from his native Akron.
James said this month that he would finish his career with whatever team drafted his son, Bronny.
James began his career with the Cavs, announcing his decision to join the Miami Heat in a controversial 2010 ESPN special. to join a Miami Heat team that won NBA championships in 2012 and 2013. He went back “home” to Cleveland and led the Cavs to that city’s first championship in any professional sport in decades in 2016 before rolling out again in 2018 to try bringing the Lakers back to glory in the post-Kobe Bryant era.
But that hasn’t gone to script. The LeBron era Lakers won one ring in the pandemic-shortened 2019-2020 season and signed James to an $85 million contract extension. But they were bounced from the playoffs in the first round the following year and the LeBron-led Lakers are currently below .500 and on the outside of the playoff hunt.