Jay-Z and LeBron James don’t just want to hold a can of soda and smile for the cameras. The two men prefer to be hands-on when it comes to giving back to the community. So during NBA All-Star weekend festivities this past Saturday, Hov and King James personally greeted children at the Boys & Girls Club of Los Angeles and unveiled a newly renovated gymnasium at their facility.
For the third year in a row, Jay-Z and LeBron’s Two Kings charity teamed up with Sprite to promote a worthy cause at All-Star Weekend. MTV News spoke to James and Jay about their participation.
“If you stay focused and you follow your dream, stay in school, you can be … well, you might not be this tall,” Jay told the club members, gesturing at James as wife Beyoncé looked on. “But you can definitely make it in life.”
Although the duo are longtime friends, they’re also technically rivals of sorts. James, of course, now plays for the Miami Heat, while Jay is a minority owner of the New Jersey Nets. Nevertheless, the pair are close and have used their popularity for philanthropic purposes.
“You’ve seen LeBron James on TV,” Jay-Z told MTV News of why someone like the Heat star is an effective role model. “Just that thing that’s tangible, that they can touch him and shake his hand and know that this is a young man who comes from the same areas as they do, and look where he’s made it to. So it makes it real.”
James, who was born and raised in Akron, Ohio, echoed the Brooklyn-born MC’s sentiments.
“Could you imagine if Michael Jordan showed up to your community?” James said. “Or whoever that you just dreamed and loved and watched every day on TV and you thought that was superhuman, just showed up to a community [center]? That one moment right there could be the difference between you making a left or making a right.”
In addition to making renovations to the Boys & Girls Club gym, Jay and LeBron also unveiled a mural by famed graffiti artist and designer Mr. Cartoon, who was also present at the event.
“Whenever I’m doing a big mural like this, I gotta think about, ‘It’s there for the youngsters, it’s there for the kids, but I want it to be on a hard-core graffiti website,” the Los Angeles native told us. “I want to motivate and inspire the youngsters. I want kids to look at it like, ‘Man, I want to do that!’ ”
According to Jay-Z, actively participating in events like these, as opposed to just posing for pictures, is essential.
“We wanted to just have a further dialogue with the people we were doing business with,” Jay explained. “To let them know we weren’t just paid endorsers and gonna sit there and just be smiling with a can in our hand or something. We wanted to take this [business] relationship and do some good. Take all these people, put them in a room, take their power and influence, and use them. But use them in a good way. Use them to affect good all over.”
That same evening, the Two Kings charity held its fifth annual dinner, which was sponsored by Microsoft’s Bing search engine. Some of the heavyweights in attendance included Ne-Yo, Miami Heat player Chris Bosh, Kanye West, Leonardo DiCaprio and Drake.