This year was a great time to be a Cleveland fan. The Indians made the World Series. The Cavaliers are champions thanks to the return of the hometown hero who, just this week, accepted his ring as the team opened another season. “Without you 20,000 fans,” LeBron James said,“ this would not be possible. This night, none of us will ever forget.”
But who do we, the fans, have to thank for making LeBron James possible? Certainly his mother, Gloria Marie James, who raised him as a single teenage mom. Perhaps the man who stood in for his actual father as his childhood mentor, Eddie Jackson Jr.? Or maybe Keith Damrot, his high school coach, who said of the recent championship, its “a lot of emotion for me personally because I have such belief in him and just our community as a whole and I just wanted something special for our community.”
Perhaps we have to thank the 16 year old who was a year behind LeBron at the rival Buchtel High School and has quietly been with him ever since. But what do we know about her? Savannah Brinson-James is not a public figure, but there is much about her and LeBron’s marriage that explains and justifies his success.
With that in mind… here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About LeBron James’ Marriage including…
15. High School Sweethearts
Savannah has seen LeBron through everything: the amateur talent craze which included a cover of Sports Illustrated (she met him shortly after); the adjustment period to the NBA at the young age of 18; “The Decision” to go to Miami in search of a title; and his announcement, “I’m Coming Home,” which led to Cleveland’s first championship in any major sport since 1964.
It all began when LeBron James and Savannah Brinson were both only 16 years old. She was the youngest of five children. Their first date was at an Outback Steakhouse. Savannah recalls “I knew he loved me when I left my leftovers from dinner in his car. I’d totally forgotten about them, and he brought them to me. I think he just wanted another excuse to come and see me.”
14. Savannah Went to Prom Pregnant
She became pregnant with their first child, Lebron Jr., in her senior year of high school while her boyfriend was busy winning Rookie of the Year in the National Basketball Association. There were rumors that she got pregnant on purpose, which she vehemently denies. LeBron, raised by a single mother himself (Gloria Marie James, who gave birth to him at age 16), was encouraging, telling her “It’s not going to slow me down, and it’s not going to slow you down. We’re going to keep doing what we have to do.” She went to prom five months pregnant wearing a “halter top with a mermaid bottom and rhinestones” that she’d designed herself.
In 2007, Brinson gave birth to their second son, Bryce Maximus, at the age of 21.
13. Savannah and LeBron Give Back to the Community
In 2013, Svannah founded the “I PROMise Makeover” event which provides prom dresses and pre-prom pampering to underprivileged girls in Miami and Akron. At the 2016 event, for instance, Brinson-James hosted 46 students from Akron’s eight high schools. This year, in addition to the dress, there was a $50 gift card to DSW to pick out shoes and the event included treated brunch, a deejay, limousine services, a purse filled with makeup, and a pair of Beats by Dre headphones.
The LeBron James Family Foundation made headlines last year when it committed to as many as 1,000 students to be able to go to the University of Akron on full scholarship and just last month announced the creation of the I Promise Institute to be a resource on campus to ensure these individuals’ success. Lebron calls these students his “kids,” saying “When we first started this program, I wanted my kids to graduate from high school. But the more we grow as a Foundation, the more we find can be done to give our kids the best chance to be successful. We don’t just want our kids to get to college, we want them to graduate from college. And we want to make sure we are doing everything we can to help them do that.”
12. Furniture Line
Home Court by LeBron James debuted in October, 2010. “The inspiration for the line came from watching LeBron Jr. and Bryce playing in their own bedroom and how much fun they have together,” said Savannah. “The most important aspect of the line’s creation is the name, Home Court. Home is where you have everything you need, exactly how you like it, similar to having a homecourt advantage in basketball. We want this line to have everything that makes a child thrilled to be in his or her room.”
Brinson-James also started a Miami-based juice bar called The Juice Spot in 2013 that has since closed. She and LeBron are looking to reopen it in Cleveland, now that he has returned home. It had only a decent rating on Yelp, 3.5 stars, but it may have been in part due to the resentment of the move back to the Cavs. “They tried to copy Jugo Fresh’s concepts and recipes and make it there [sic] own, but failed, just like Lebron did in Cleveland this year,” one recent review said.
11. Savannah Didn’t Really Want to go to Miami
“The Decision” might have never happened. LeBron James might have had the perfect “marriage to Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh” as The Big Three but his “Big Three” at home had different ideas. “Personally, Miami was not my favorite place,” Savannah said. “Vacationing there is great: You go for three days and get some sun, and it’s time to go home.” BUT… “when they told me it doesn’t get any colder than 50 degrees, that sold me. We get below-zero weather in Cleveland.”
She probably got adjusted when they bought their $9 million mansion in Coconut Grove overlooking Biscayne Bay. They sold the mansion last summer for $13.4 million meaning they netted a clean $4 milLION and change. The mansion was listed by Opulence International Realty, which lived up to its name with this property, calling it “the most opulent estate in Miami.” And speaking of “opulence”…
10. Savannah Had No Idea LeBron Would be Rich and Famous
“I just thought he’d be a hometown hero for his era and it would be over. He was a normal high school senior.”
The James are worth around $225 million today and now own two mansions. They continue to own a seven-plus acre property in Akron that they originally purchased in James’ rookie year, which now hosts a 30,000-square-foot home with six bedrooms and 14 bathrooms, a recording studio, a two-lane bowling alley, theater, sports activities bar, aquarium, barbershop, and a main bedroom suite with a two-story stroll-in closet. Their other home is 9,350 square-feet East Coast-style mansion in Los Angeles in Brentwood. Its sales tag? $21 million.
And as for fame… it must have been hard for her to believe that among a number of NBA stars like Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony, as well as Gabrielle Union, Neyo, even Beyoncé and Jay Z were reportedly at their wedding and performed “Crazy In Love.”
9. LeBron and Savannah Had a Dream Wedding
After sending a Save-the-Date in early 2013, with a caricature of James and Brinson and the boys in formal outfits riding on a plane, LeBron, at the age of 28, and Savannah, at the age of 27, got married on September 14 of the same year at the Grand Del Mar resort in Sand Diego with hundreds in attendance at a 4:30pm ceremony. LeBron understood his role perfectly, saying “Savannah gets whatever she wants on her day, the wedding day she always dreamed of.” The wedding was a three day celebration with a barbecue on Friday and a farewell brunch on Sunday blanketing the big event and was orchestrated by Preston Bailey, who was also the wedding planner for a Lord of the Rings-themed $9 million nuptials of Silicon Valley mogul Sean Parker.
Guests were ushered into the wedding areas under the cover of tents, and television footage taken by news helicopters showed that even umbrellas were used to protect the identity of those arriving. All cellphones were confiscated.
8. They Also Had a Dream Engagement
Brinson had dreamed of being a bride since she was six. On New Year’s Eve of 2011 at Vesper American Brasserie in the Shelborne South Beach Hotel in Miami, after an eight year relationship, fellow Miami Heat star Dwayne Wade held onto a $300,000 engagement ring for LeBron. “I asked him for it right after the ball dropped,” James recalls. “He was like, ‘You ready?’ I was like, ‘If you don’t give me this ring right now, I ain’t gonna do it.’” It was a big end-of-year for basketball icons’ romantic relationships, as none other than Michael Jordan proposed to his now wife Yvette Prieto just a week before. Their engagement was a longer one… they just got married a few months ago.
7. LeBron Applied the Lessons of his Marriage to his Relationship with Coach Tyronn Lue
His proposal to Savannah “felt like a finals game,” said LeBron. He would know. He has played in seven NBA Finals, including the last six consecutively. But none of them mattered as much as the most recent one. So you might expect him to have a pretty special relationship with his current coach.
Indeed, LeBron may be legally married to Brinson-James, but as the “Man Who Guided LeBron To A Hometown Title,” Tyronn Lue will also always have a special place in his heart. LeBron said “I think it’s like anything, when you’re around someone every single day, I guess it’s like a marriage or a girlfriend. You’re around her every single day, they get better and better and better if it’s genuine, and that’s what it is here with myself and T Lue.”
6. LeBron Lost the MVP to Steph Curry but he Won a Ring and Prize for Best Wife?
Just after LeBron and Steph Curry finished Game 6 with one to go to decide who would be NBA Champion, Stephen A. Smith spoke important commentary after the game. “As beautiful as everybody wants to say Ayesha Curry is, Savannah is special. Ain’t a man alive, particularly a black man, who is going to look at LeBron James’ wife and not say that that woman ain’t gorgeous.”
He lashed out at Ms. Curry for an angry tweet she had put out in response to the game, which she later deleted. He criticized her for getting “caught up in your own individual emotions and having the zest to speak out to the point where it compromises your husband” and, by comparison, praised Savannah for “sitting there, she doesn’t bring any attention to herself, she never tweets and calls out the league and stuff like that, and nobody is more scrutinized than her husband.”
5. Savannah has Normal Interests but with Different Results
Like many woman, Savannah Brinson-James loves her shoes. Her favorite designers are Phillip Lim, Alexander McQueen, and Alexander Wang. “I’m five foot seven and I have a tall guy. So I like a good heel.” Unlike us, however, she shoes her fashion collection… on the red carpet.
She also enjoys travel. Her push present when she became pregnant with their third child? “Mykanos Greece is spectacular! Push gift to my wife”, Lebron wrote on Instagram in 2014. As for TV, on August 20, LeBron threw Savannah a surprise 30th birthday and in honor of one of her favorite shows ever, Miami Vice, she got a classic Ferrari Testarosa in White, the same car Don Johnson drove. The party included a carousel, stilt walkers, and circus performers to go along with a carnival theme. His Instagram post capped the night by saying “Happy Bday Queen.”
4. Social Media Posts Have Led to Rumors About LeBron’s Infidelity
On a high profile level, rumors have swirled that LeBron is dating Rihanna, who flew to the 2015 NBA Finals on LeBron’s private jet. She has posted various times about LeBron, including a series of Instagram posts following the Cavs’ recent championship. She also notoriously posted a photo of herself in a bikini with his number written on her stomach with sunscreen. She even went as far as to tag LeBron.
Additionally, Instagram model Rachel Bush earlier this year, posted a photo from a Cavs home game with emojis that basically pointed to LeBron James being her boyfriend. At the same game, she tweeted a direct message through his verified Instagram account that James allegedly sent her of “Hey, what’s up.” Both posts were then scrubbed from her social media.
3. Things Have Gotten Weird Recently with Rachel Bush
As to the Cavs game incident, Bush later told a follower on Twitter, “didn’t know he had a wife and KIDS. Just knew the name. Not even into basketball like that.”
She does, however, like Cleveland sports stars. She was actually sitting with the man she was dating, Cleveland Browns safety Jordan Poyer, at the Cavs game when the social media scandal happened. Poyer was the recent victim of a brutal hit by Titans running back Antonio Andrews on an October 16 NFL game. Andrews then turned around and posted the play on Instagram with the caption “Relentless” which Poyer questioned. In an odd twist, as it turns out, just weeks before, Andrews was caught liking Bush’s photos on Instagram, and she posted the proof on Twitter.
2. The Whole Family Shares a Love of Sports
As a kid, Savannah was a softball player and a cheerleader. In fact, the couple first met when LeBron saw her at a football game and asked her to come watch him play in a game of his own. Their two boys, LeBron “Bronny” Jr. and Bryce Maximus, also are starting to take after their father’s prowess on the court. Earlier this year apparently, both boys put on a show for the North Coast Blue Chips in the Ohio Showcase, and later the Buckeye Prep Invitational, hitting jumpers and swatting shots… with their dad watching from the sidelines and even adding a dorky court-side dance.
It was recently revealed that “Bronny,” at age 11, already has scholarship offers from Duke and University of Kentucky. LeBron has actually spoken out about these recruitment tactics, saying last year “it’s pretty crazy. It should be a violation. You shouldn’t be recruiting 10-year-old kids.”
1. LeBron and Savannah Welcomed Their Daughter Zhuri Into the World in 2014
Zhuri Nova James was born in October of 2014. Miami Heat President Pat Riley confirmed her pregnancy to the media by saying “Savannah now is going to have a little baby girl to join her in the fight against the two boys and LeBron, which she needs.” LeBron revealed her name on an Instagram post, writing “Zhuri, hurry up and get here so your daddy and 2 brothers can annoy you! Lol”
“Zuri” means good or beautiful in Swahili. The proud parents kept her image off of social media until the celebration of the 2016 championship, when she lived up to her billing by showcasing a family trait… being adorable. She even reached for her daddy’s celebratory cigar, cementing her roll as the “princess” of the “king.”
Of course it didn’t take the media long to start comparing her to Riley Curry…
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