LeBron James has his fair share of critics, of that there is no doubt. However, after one brief moment in TD Garden Tuesday night, all that might have changed.
To say James is the most hated athlete is not hyperbole. According to a recent Harris Poll survey, 2,220 adults were asked to name their favorite sports star. While James received the most votes for favorite sports star, he also received the most votes for the most hated.
He is either loved or hated. He’s an extraordinary athlete with rare physical talent, which allows him to play a difficult game and make it seem easy. But since his early days with the Miami Heat, he has slowly begun to write a different story for himself.
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It’s a story of redemption by giving back to those less fortunate, and it was no more apparent than Tuesday night.
During a timeout, the Boston Celtics honored 16-year-old Aaron Miller, a special needs athlete diagnosed with spastic hemiplegia. Miller bravery and defiance led him to beat the odds, by not only walking when his doctors didn’t think it was possible but to compete as a high school athlete in golf and basketball.
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A Special Moment
While the Celtics honored Miller, James briefly caught the ceremony on the Jumbotron while huddling with his teammates. Then in one fleeting instant, James did something special that goes beyond basketball - he reached out and gave Miller the memory of a lifetime.
James ran over to where Miller was on the sideline, shook his hand, rubbed his head, and said some words of encouragement to him. After another brief moment, he turned back to Miller, gave him a thumbs up, and acknowledged him. Miller’s reaction was priceless, as the look on his face said it all.
His mother, Deborah Miller, stated:
"I'm feeling extremely honored, and Aaron was just over the moon. He's quite an amazing guy to take the time to make someone's day like that.
"Aaron will never be the same. He still is on Cloud Nine. I'm surprised he even went to school today."
More than an athlete
And just in case the most cynical of us has their doubts, James visited Miller again after the game, this time handing him his game worn custom shoes. Miller was actually already wearing some LeBron shoes the NBA star had helped design, which features only one strap and makes it easier for kids like Aaron to tie.
Whether you are on the side that loves or hates LeBron, you can’t deny that he’s a special athlete that is determined to make a difference in kids' lives, by doing things like this on a more consistent basis.
And if you're still on the hate James side, pay attention. Because your numbers are dwindling.