As it turns out, LeBron James’ high school athletic career was deeply affected by the sudden and tragic death of singer Aaliyah.
Sportswriter Brian Windhorst, who chronicled the 19-time NBA All-Star James’ high school career, discussed the connection between the two superstars in an article. debut on wednesday ESPN’s basketball-focused show “NBA Today.”
“(James) was going to quit the football team after his sophomore year at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio, and then one of his favorite singers, Aaliyah, died in a plane crash,” Windhorst told program group. Host Malika Andrews. “He decided not to live a life of fear.”
Aaliyah died in a plane crash in the Bahamas on August 25, 2001 at the age of 22. The “Are You That Somebody” singer was returning from a video shoot in the Caribbean country when the accident, which also killed eight people, occurred.
read more: Twenty years after her death, Aaliyah remains a mystery.But her music stands the test of time
James initially planned to give up football early in high school to preserve his body and energy for basketball, as he was already being heavily recruited by college and professional teams.
As a junior wide receiver, James caught 57 passes for 1,160 yards and 16 touchdowns for St. Vincent-St. Mary. He decided not to play the grueling sport during his senior year so he could focus on basketball.
The Akron-born NBA icon previously mentioned how Aaliyah’s death inspired him in Sports Illustrated’s famous “The Chosen One” interview.
read more: Sports Report: Why LeBron James is the greatest basketball player in history
“In fact, (James) spent the past two years risking career-threatening injuries as an all-state wide receiver for the St. Vincent-St. Mary football team. At first (James’ mother) Gloria refused to let LeBron I convinced her to let him play after the 22-year-old singer Aaliyah died in a plane crash last fall,” journalist Grant Wahl wrote in 2002.
“‘You’re not promised tomorrow,’ LeBron said. ‘I have to be on the court with my team.’ Although LeBron did break the index finger on his left (non-shooting) hand, he helped lead the Irish to state Semifinals.”
The four-time NBA champion discussed his impressive football numbers and the fact that he is the top football prospect in Ohio in a post on Instagram.
read more: How LeBron James won the NBA scoring crown step by step
“My friend @mister1223 just sent me this from his son. His son said ‘I didn’t know LeBron was the No. 1 prospect at Ohio State?’ He said ‘yeah LeBron is in football too Outstanding.'” His son responded “That’s crazy!” 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣. My junior year at WR, I had 60 catches, 1,200 yards and 16 touchdowns. 😱,” James captioned a photo of a newspaper clip highlighting his monumental stat.”
“I didn’t even play my senior year (which I wanted to play so badly) because my kids… wouldn’t let me play,” he continued. “They said if I tried to step onto a football field my senior year, they would jump (kick) me every day at practice until I had enough! I think I made a good decision!”
Sign up for LA Goes Out, the Los Angeles Times’ weekly newsletter about exploring and experiencing Los Angeles.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.