Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, along with his charitable foundation and business partner Maverick Carter, is donating a total of $2.5 million to an exhibit at the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture — “Muhammad Ali: A Force for Change.”
“Muhammad Ali is such a cornerstone of me as an athlete because of what he represented not only in the ring as a champion but more outside the ring — what he stood for, what he spoke for, his demeanor,” James told USA Today Sports in an interview about the exhibit.
“I think of him every day. Without his passion and goals and morals, I don’t know if I’d be sitting here today talking to you about it.”
With the donation, James joins two NBA Hall of Famers — Michael Jordan with $5 million and Magic Johnson and his wife Cookie with at least $1 million — in the list of big names contributing to the Washington, D.C., museum.
“His support will help us to continue the story of Muhammad Ali and will encourage athletes to realize how important athletics is in terms of social justice,” museum Founding Director Lonnie Bunch said of James’ contribution. “It’s also really important that actions like this by Mr. James encourage younger athletes and people with means to recognize the philanthropy and paying homage to those who went before, how crucially important that is.”
Ali died on June 3 this year. The exhibit covers two parts of the museum — the Sports gallery and the Making a Way Out of No Way gallery. The focus has been on Ali’s boxing accomplishments along with his social activism, spanning politics, religion, civil resistance and community work.
James reportedly got in touch with Ali’s widow, Lonnie Ali, when he got the chance to contribute to the exhibit and both became friends.
“I am overwhelmed by the incredible generosity LeBron James has shown," Lonnie Ali said in a statement. “This exhibit will enable children visiting the Smithsonian to learn more about Muhammad’s work outside of the ring, particularly his humanitarian work and stance on social justice for all people...I know that if Muhammad was alive today he would be honored.”