Few individuals among the nearly 8 billion in the world have the ability to take a given sport and turn it on its head. But the ones who do, manage to become global figures who allow their athletic prowess to both impress and inspire them. But, in the end, it’s about what they do off the field or court that can influence generations to come. And for many, it’s making sure kids grow up better off than they did and helping them realize that sports aren’t the only way to make a name for yourself.
Here are athletes who show that there’s more to them than their athletic ability.
LeBron has done amazing things in his career that don’t involve calling that guy in the White House a bum. This year, he opened a school in his native Akron, Ohio. He’s hoping his school will give students the jump start he never had. With services that will ensure the kids are fed both at home and at school, and programs that help guardians secure jobs, James is proving that its all bigger than basketball.
Russell Wilson has emerged as one of the premier quarterbacks in the league and has become a role model for his fans and the up and coming crop of footballers. He handles himself the same off the field, and has been quick to pass on his good fortune to those who aren’t as lucky. As an active member of the Seattle community, he visits the Seattle Children’s Hospital weekly and he’s donated more than $1 million to the facility via his Why Not You Foundation. He even put his money where his mouth was during the 2013 and 2014 season and donated $3,000 for every touchdown he scored.
Serena isn’t just the rightful face of tennis who inspired a new generation of kids to play the sport, but she has also made sure to not forget where she came from. She’s always one to stand up for what she believes in. Never one to shy away from controversy, she’s supported the Black Lives Matter movement and is even an International Goodwill Ambassador with UNICEF. In 2016, the Serena Williams Fund partnered with Helping Hands Jamaica to build a school on the island. And she’s doing all of this while still at the top of her game.
When you’re one of the most popular and well-paid athletes of all time, its only right to make sure that others benefit from your blessings. Dating back to 2012, Ronaldo has paid for the treatment of a boy with cancer. That same year, he sold his 2011 golden boot for over $1 million and used the money to fund schools for children in Gaza.
Back in 2013, Hurricane Moore hit Oklahoma City, and as the city’s premier basketball player he knew he had to step in and help so he donated $1 million to the American Red Cross. His goodwill even inspired the Thunder’s front office and Nike to match his donation to help the city recover from a natural disaster that caused around $2 billion in damage. Durant’s philanthropic efforts don’t stop with aiding natural disaster recovery. He is also a spokesperson for P’Tones Records. As a Washington, D. C. kid, he joined his city’s chapter for the national nonprofit that helps launch after school music programs and “open recording studios nationwide that teach urban high school youth how to become producers, engineers, artists and executives in the music industry.”
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