When he was simply LeBron and not the LeBron James, there was one woman who stood by him and that is his wife who's been with him for nearly 2 decades.
The phrase "behind every successful man is a woman" certainly holds true for NBA star, LeBron James. He may have cemented his name in sport's history with his talent, skill, and perseverance, but if there's any reason he is who he is, it's his wife, Savannah.
"[Savannah] was down when I was at my high school, no cameras, no lights. And she was there with me. You wouldn't be talking to me right now if it weren't for her,” he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2018 after making waves in Hollywood as well as an actor. But knowing their journey is crucial to understanding just how much James respects and loves his wife.
The two first met while they were in high school, according to Business Insider. At the time, James was a rising superstar in basketball and football at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio while Savannah was a cheerleader and softball player from a rival school.
Even if they didn't know it immediately, the sparks were already flying. James asked 16-year-old Savannah out to a basketball game, an offer she accepted. But it was when he returned for her leftovers after their first date at Outback Steakhouse that she realized there was something special between them. After that, there was no looking back.
However, neither of them knew how big James would make it. "I just thought he'd be a hometown hero for his era and it would be over," she said, according to Business Insider. And so he began his NBA career with his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. It was at that time, in 2003, that the couple were about to have their first child and that scared young 17-year-old Savannah.
"I was thinking, 'What am I going to tell my parents? What's going to happen to his career?'" she told Harper's Bazaar, according to Sporting News. "I was very scared. I was bawling. But he said, '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.'"
So they kept going and as the legend was earning his name, his wife was there beside him throughout his journey. Their family had expanded to include two sons. "It keeps me grounded knowing that I’m representing a little guy like that and his big brother," James said about his sons in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. "My sons are the only reason why I’m still sane. They don’t know if I missed the last three shots to win the game or if I turned the ball over. All they know is they see their daddy coming out the locker room and they ready to play."
Finally, in 2011, the NBA star knew it was time to make his girlfriend take the next step in the relationship with him — marriage. During a New Year Eve's party in France, James popped the big question to Savannah. "It felt like a Finals game," he told Oprah Winfrey. "I had been thinking about it, you know, for a while but it just came to me one day and I was like, 'this is a part of growth for me.' I was like, 'this is the lady and the woman I have been with through all the good and all the bad.' She's been there for a long time, and I wanted her to continue to be there with me, so I felt like at that moment it was time."
“He is truly a king to his queen, if you will,” Savannah told Cleveland Magazine. “He treats me with so much respect — I mean, it’s hard to not love him, with the way that he is with me and the kids and his mom and just everyone who’s around him. He’s a really, really humble guy for everything that he has and everything that he’s done.”
Two years later, the couple tied the knot and in 2014, they had their third child — a beautiful daughter. "I had two boys first, my oldest son, LeBron Jr., and my younger son, Bryce Maximus, and people always told me, 'if you ever have a girl, she'll change you,'" James said, according to USA Today. "Three years ago, this bright spot right here happened to our family. And not only did she change me, she's made me a better person. A more dedicated person, a stronger person. I guess a more sensitive person that realized that I have so much more of a responsibility to women in general. So, thank you, Zhuri."
Since then, LeBron James has continued to rise in fame as an athlete and an actor. But one thing he will never forget is how his wife stuck by his side through the various milestones and downfalls he went through. And he isn't afraid to say it. In an Instagram post, he shared his appreciation for his wife in the caption that read, "The only reason why I can do what I do at the highest level both on and off the floor is my because my best friend got my back regardless the outcome! I’m just the car, she’s the engine! Appreciate you Wonder Woman aka Queen."
Here's to many more years for the happy couple.