On November 20th, ESPN+ and UNINTERRUPTED aired the first installment of a new eight-episode original docuseries called More Than an Athlete. Produced by and starring LeBron James, the series explores his incredible journey from small town kid from Akron, Ohio, to NBA superstar, philanthropist and businessman.
The first episode focuses on the unique relationships between James and his longtime childhood friends-turned-business partners, Maverick Carter, Randy Mims and Rich Paul.
It is replete with sincere and insightful conversations among the four friends as they remember the successes and failures of their pasts.
“We’ve had our ups and downs like all brothers do, but to persevere through those times and continue to push one another, it’s just rare,” says Carter.
Today, Carter is James’ manager, tasked with handling the superstar’s business interests. As he says, he’s James’ partner in all things non-NBA. He’s also the CEO of SpringHill Entertainment and UNINTERRUPTED, the SpringHill digital media platform he created with the four-time NBA MVP.
Mims acts as James’ chief of staff and is always with him when he travels for games or business.
“Everything flows through Randy,” Carter says in the first episode of the series. Mims is also an executive administrator for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Paul, who, according to The Undefeated’s Marc Spears, “was in the business of selling pro sports jerseys when he met a then-teenage James in Akron-Canton Airport,” has truly leveled up and is now a successful NBA agent and the CEO of his own agency, Klutch Sports Group. His star-studded roster includes not only James but also John Wall, Ben Simmons, Eric Bledsoe, Anthony Davis, Cory Joseph, J.R. Smith and others.
“Watching my three brothers grow into a serious businessman with purpose fills me with so much pride,” James told The Undefeated. “I watched as corporate America tried to look past or dismiss them. I always knew there was something special about Randy, Rich and Maverick and that, together, we were going to do something very different. I am so grateful and blessed that we found each other. And know my life would be very different without them.
“There is no story without Northeast Ohio and the people who shaped us. The spirit of More Than an Athlete was born in Akron, Ohio.”
When James announced he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat eight years ago, he was heavily criticized. Folks told him to get rid of his team—his friends—and find more experienced advisers. But the superstar decided to shut out the noise and “keep riding with his friends as a member of the ‘four horsemen,’” writes Spears.
Ultimately, this series is an authentic view of James the person; it’s a behind-the-scenes look at how a global icon came to be and the friendships that have sustained and humbled him every step of the way.
“We come from an environment of ‘I’ma do it myself,’” says Paul. However, “people don’t realize that nobody does it by themselves.”
Now, 15 years after signing his first NBA contract in 2003, James and his “brothers,” as he calls them, have exceeded their wildest dreams.
And they did it together. They did it by staying grounded and never forgetting what they’ve come from or the community that shaped them.
“I’m able to give back to the city I grew up in, the city that I love and the city that I will always give back to,” James says.
In fact, over the summer, they opened the I Promise School in Akron to support students who come from nothing but have dreams and aspirations to go far.
“I can understand exactly where these kids are and their mentality, and they just need somebody to believe in them early on. And that’s what the I Promise School, to me, means more than anything,” says Paul. “It’s someone of stature saying to them, ‘Man, I care.’”
According to James, in this life, “you gotta have friends. No kid wants to go out and play by himself.” But he, Carter, Mims and Paul have proved to be more than just friends—more than a posse, business partners or even brothers.
They’re more than any one of them ever expected, and together, they’ve shown the world just how far a couple of kids from Akron can go.