Fatherhood has always been the ultimate priority for LeBron James, who now faces a heartbreaking reality

LeBron James, left, poses with son Bronny after Sierra Canyon beat Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in a high school game on December 14, 2019 in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete, File)

Even before the possibility of becoming an NBA superstar was possible, let alone plausible, LeBron James set a goal for his life.

He wanted to be a father. A real one. A responsible one. A present and loving one.

His own father was never a part of his life, leaving his mother, Gloria, to fend for herself and LeBron via low-paying jobs. Everything was a struggle. Mother and son experienced bouts of homelessness, crashing on friends’ couches and floors across Akron, Ohio. An appreciative LeBron would make Gloria a card not only on Mother’s Day, but on Father’s Day as well.

And he promised himself that he would be different.

“I knew from Day 1 it wasn’t going to be me,” James told Cleveland.com in 2016.

On Monday, LeBron and his wife, Savannah, experienced the scariest of parenting moments. Their oldest son, 18-year-old Bronny, went into cardiac arrest during basketball practice at USC, where he is set to be a freshman this year.

Fortunately, medical personnel were on hand and “were able to treat Bronny and take him to the hospital,” according to a statement from the family. “He is now in stable condition and no longer in intensive care.”

Apparently, Bronny is out of danger. That is the good news. Whatever that means for his basketball future pales in comparison.

No parent cares about sports at such a moment.

Please save my child. That is it. That is all.

In these harrowing moments of uncertainty, fame or fortune is of no importance. LeBron was just a helpless father, the father he always wanted to be. He and Savannah, who first met and dated in high school, have three children, with 16-year-old son Bryce and 8-year-old daughter Zhuri following Bronny.

No matter how great LeBron’s career has become, he has never deviated from that initial promise to build the kind of family he always wanted. Despite the demands of being an NBA superstar, with a growing business empire, he is a relentless presence in his children’s lives.

He was a constant sideline fan at Bronny’s AAU and high school games. Last month, he coached Bryce’s team at a tournament in South Carolina. Over the years, he has casually spoken to the media about homework, bedtimes, the challenges of raising a child in the age of social media and other various everyday issues, all parents.

Paparazzi have regularly spotted LeBron and the family leaving movie theaters and malls or hanging out at beaches and theme parks. Whenever possible, he seems to always be with his family.

As much as he’s allowed his children to thrive — and live in the spotlight their own talents have created — he’s also protective and as private as can be expected. Bronny’s recruitment, for example, could have been a circus. Instead, it was as low-key and in the shadows as possible, a simple Instagram post that served as a commitment announcement.

And if nothing else, he’s always stuck to the simplest of fatherhood lessons: show your kids you love and respect their mom, via endless public praise of Savannah.

Whether you relentlessly root for LeBron on the court or completely disagree with his political messages off it, there’s no doubting his inspiring commitment to his family and being a role model for a father.

He’s the kind of father he says he rarely saw while growing up in his community. It was also part of his motivation to get better.

“Just breaking the condition, that’s all,” LeBron said. “I wanted to be part of the statistics that break the way fathers run out on their children. It was something I obviously went through.”

There were examples of fatherhood and family on the west side of Akron. After missing more than half of third grade to a chaotic home life, he moved into the stable home of Frank and Pam Walker, whose son, Frankie, played football with LeBron.

“The Walkers laid a foundation for me,” LeBron would say years later.

He also later leaned on Dru Joyce II, a basketball coach and father of LeBron’s friend and teammate, Dru Joyce III.

As much as his bedroom walls held posters of Allen Iverson and Michael Jordan, it was Frank Walker and Dru Joyce he also wanted to be.

It has been carried forward over the years. When he entered free agency in 2018, he held a family meeting and considered everyone’s needs. The fact that his business interests in Los Angeles would allow him to be home more often if he played for the Lakers was a factor in his decision. He has since stated a desire to one day play with Bronny should his son make it to the NBA.

And then Monday had to bring everything to a heartbreaking halt. Monday had to be the nightmare phone call that every parent dreads with every fiber of his or her being.

Cardiac arrest. Ambulance. ICU.

LeBron James, a father first and always, dealing with a terrifying reality.

Here’s to Bronny being safe and sound, for his own sake and that of his family.

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