Gloria James, LeBron James’ Mother: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

LeBron James

Getty LeBron James

LeBron James grew up in Akron, Ohio, the only son of Gloria James. His upbringing was a difficult one and both James and his mother have been open about the ups and downs of his childhood. Gloria James was only 16 years old when she gave birth to her son, whose father was not in the picture.

Here’s what you need to know about LeBron James’ mother Gloria James:

1. Gloria James Was 16 Years Old When She Gave Birth to LeBron James & Raised Him as a Single Mother

Gloria Marie James was born on February 4, 1968. Her mother was Akron, Ohio, native Freda M. James Howard. According to, James’ grandmother was a well-known hairstylist in the neighborhood and a “giving woman.” Gloria James has two brothers, Curt and Terry James.

LeBron James was born on December 30, 1984, when Gloria James was just 16 years old. As his father wasn’t in the picture, James was given his mother’s last name. Gloria James began raising her son with the help of her mother but tragedy struck when Freda James Howard died of a heart attack on December 25, 1987, when Gloria James was just 19 years old, James recounted in an essay published by TODAY.

Afterward, Gloria James struggled to make ends meet as she and her brothers tried to keep their family home. Unfortunately, the three young adults were unable to pay the heating bills and Gloria James and her then-three-year-old son moved out of the house and into a neighbor’s home, ESPN reported.

It was the start of what would be a very nomadic period for the single mother and her son. As James has shared in the past, there was even a stretch of time in 4th grade when he missed over 80 days of school.

2. Gloria James & LeBron James Moved a Lot When He Was Young & They Stayed With Several Friends & Family Members

Gloria James and her son first went to live with their neighbor, Wanda Reaves. She invited them to sleep on her couch and they stayed with her for several months, ESPN reported. Afterward, they lived with one of Gloria James’ cousins, her brother, and various friends as she waited to receive a subsidized housing waiver from the municipal government.

In 1993, when James was 9 years old, a football coach named Bruce Kelker spotted him playing with some friends in one of the housing project building’s parking lots. Kelker was the coach of a youth football team and his goal was to create a championship-winning team. He said he noticed James right away and asked him if he’d ever played football, to which James replied that he hadn’t.

Gloria James, who was present for the exchange, told Kelker she couldn’t afford to buy the necessary equipment for her son to play and didn’t have a car to get him to the practices. “Don’t worry about any of that,” Kelker replied according to ESPN. “I’ll take care of everything, and I’ll pick him up.”

Eventually, Kelker invited James and his mother to live with him, he told the Los Angeles Times, although he clarified that he wasn’t in a romantic relationship with Gloria James and was simply offering a safe home environment for both.

3. LeBron James Lived With Another Coach & His Family for a Year When He Was 9 Years Old

While it seemed James might be heading for a career in football, it was another coach who changed his trajectory. After living for some time with his mother and Kelker, James’ football coach put him in touch with a friend, Frankie Walker, a football coach who introduced him to basketball.

By the end of 1993, James had moved in with Walker, who had three kids of his own. He said his mother told him she’d made that sacrifice knowing James needed stability in his life. “She said to me, ‘It was hard, but I knew it was not about me. It was about you. I had to put you first,’” he wrote of that period. He fell into a family routine there, where the Walkers put an emphasis on not only his basketball practices but his schoolwork too, ESPN wrote.

The Walkers, who had a good relationship with Gloria James, made it clear that they weren’t pulling James away from his mother. In an interview published by, Pam Walker said they told Gloria James that they believed in her and wanted her to get the opportunity to save money and find a good place to stay for her and her son. She described James as a polite, well-mannered boy.

“They put the discipline act into me,” James later shared about the experience. “They made me get up every day and go to school. There were days I didn’t want to go to school. Being part of a family, a mom-and-dad surrounding … you had a brother and you had two sisters … it was an unbelievable experience for me at a young age. It opened my eyes up to become what I am today, why I act the way I am today.”

By the time James was about to start sixth grade, his mother had found an apartment and he moved back in with her, although he remained very close with the Walkers and continued to spend weekends with them.

4. Gloria James Has Always Been LeBron James’ Biggest Fan & He’s Described His Mother as His ‘Champion’

Throughout the ups and downs of his childhood, Gloria James and her son remained very close and the NBA legend has been very vocal about his love and respect for his mother.

Despite her struggles as a young, single mother, Gloria James always made time for her son’s games and her passion for watching him play began when he was a young boy playing football. When he played football for coach Kelker, Gloria James attended the games and practices. Kelker fondly described to ESPN how James’ mother would run down the sidelines every time he scored a touchdown, “stride for stride with LeBron, looking like a maniac.”

In 2014, James wrote an essay in tribute to his mother published by TODAY. “You think LeBron James is a champion? Gloria James is a champion too. She’s my champion,” he wrote. He explained that despite their struggles when he was younger, he always knew without a doubt that he was loved.

“Through all of that, I knew one thing for sure: I had my mother to blanket me and to give me security,” he wrote. “She was my mother, my father, my everything. She put me first. I knew that no matter what happened, nothing and nobody was more important to her than I was. I went without a lot of things, but never for one second did I feel unimportant or unloved.”

He wrote that it’s often been reported that he’s “devoted” to his mother but explained that it’s because his mother was the one who taught him about devotion. “For every minute of my life, she has been devoted to me,” he shared in the touching essay.

5. Gloria James Is Involved in Philanthropic Projects Through the LeBron James Family Foundation, Where She Serves as Vice President

In addition to being a proud and supportive mother, Gloria James is also involved in the LeBron James Family Foundation, where she serves as Vice President. In February 2022, Gloria James kicked off her first annual House of Glo All-Star Experience.

According to its event page, The House of Glo is a “fashion presentation celebrating Black designers, highlighting social justice initiatives, and supporting Northwest Ohio’s only public HBCU, Central State University.” Her goal with the event is to support the community while thanking and giving back to those who helped her throughout the years.

“The All-Star Experience weekend is my way of saying thank you to the best fans in the country, to the village that has supported me, and giving back to my community,” Gloria James said, according to

In partnership with the LeBron James Family Foundation, Gloria James posted a video to her Instagram on February 8 highlighting some of her son’s achievements that she was proudest of. She said although he’d just broken the NBA all-time scoring record, an incredible achievement, it was his off-court accomplishments that she was proudest of.

“From a bikeathon… to a school… to transitional housing, long-term housing, a health center and a job training and community center… to a life-changing movement,” she shared. “You’re empowering our kids and families in Akron and communities everywhere to reach their dreams.”

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