Two years ago this July I was in need of a white blazer for one of those summer parties in the Hamptons. I headed down to Ralph Lauren, several blocks away from our home. The good news was I found the last white jacket in the store. The bad news, the jacket was one size too small. So I headed up to the store's tailoring department to see if the jacket could be fitted.
To my surprise, LeBron James was sitting on a bench in the fitting room. I could see that LeBron was trying on several expensive and spectacular suits. He appeared to be in the company of another large man who was quietly watching the proceedings. I looked at him out of the corner of my eye and was amazed by how together he looked for a man who was barely 20 years old.
Meanwhile, my tailor asked me to put the white jacket on as I stood in front of a 3-way mirror. It was clear that the jacket was too tight around my waist and there was not enough fabric to make the appropriate correction. But, because I had to have a white jacket, I instructed the tailor to do the best he could.
As I was preparing to leave the dressing room I decided to say a few words to LeBron. I had watched him play basketball on television many times. He is tall, 6'9", fast and a great shooter. From the very beginning he appeared to have great potential.
"I am from Chicago," I said, "I watched and met Michael Jordan."
As if I had mentioned almighty God, LeBron James stood up and looked me in the eye.
"From what I have seen, you will be at least as good as Michael Jordan," I continued. "You have great potential."
LeBron stood speechless for a few seconds. He then reached out his hand and shook mine. Then, nodding his head up and down, he said, "Sir, I really appreciate that, I appreciate what you said." His face was earnest and his voice truly sincere. He appeared humbled by the comparison.
After this brief encounter I headed out to the cash register across the room. While finalizing my business I noticed that LeBron was walking across the room to come speak with me.
"Sir," he said respectfully, "I want you to know how much I appreciate what you said." He then tipped his head to me, shook my hand again, and left with his friend.
From this one brief encounter I know that LeBron James is more than just an incredibly gifted athlete. I was struck then by his thoughtfulness, his maturity, by his easy and unassuming manner. LeBron seemed to be a very special person who possessed talent, purpose and decency.
I was thrilled to see him win the NBA's MVP award this year. I was not surprised to hear his humble tone and gracious acceptance remarks, especially the part where he said it is really a team award.
For sure, LeBron James is a "most valuable person" for his family, his community and his sport.
By the way, I wore the white jacket even though I could not button it!