The internet had it’s collective heart warmed Wednesday by the generous gesture that LeBron James offered up Tuesday night in Boston, when he greeted and then gifted his game-worn shoes to a recent MVP of a Massachusetts Special Olympics basketball tournament. The gesture was genuinely touching, with LeBron showing appreciation for a 16-year-old’s commitment to sports despite a lifelong struggle with partial paralysis. As it turns out, LeBron’s decision to offer up his game-worn shoes was brought on by more than the young athlete’s determination; it also had something to do with the shoes he was wearing.
Don’t get us wrong. That’s not a bad thing, Rather, LeBron noticed that 16-year-old Aaron Miller was wearing the special LeBron Zoom Soldier 8 Flyease model, which was designed with the input of a teen with cerebral palsy who struggled to tie his own shoes (you can read more about that inspiring teen, Matthew Walzer, right here). The shoes use a patented velcro wrap technology that allows the wearer to fasten the shoe closed without having to use both hands to tie laces. It’s a terrific design, and it looks like other LeBron sneakers as well, which was a major part of the point according to Nike designer Tobie Hatfield.
So, no sooner than LeBron noticed Miller, who was featured on the Celtics jumbotron during the second quarter of Cleveland’s victory, wearing the Flyease sneakers than he was immediately inspired to offer his own tribute, in part because he felt that he was, “a part of him,”
“I wasn’t able to hear the whole story because I was actually in the game and coach was drawing up a play,” James told the media after the game. “But I looked up at the Jumbotron and I seen what he’s been through and where he is now. I think the doctor said he would never walk again, talk again, or something like that. I looked up there and I just, right from there. This game is so much more than just basketball.
“And also seeing he had my shoes on. I designed these shoes for kids with conditions where they’re not able to tie their own shoestrings. It’s just one strap, and they’re able to get them on with one hand, or whatever the case may be. Then, when I saw his story, it was just like, I don’t know, I felt like I was a part of him. I was just showing him my respect and gave him my shoes. And it was well received by him. It wasn’t, it’s not for you guys, it’s not for the fans. It was for him.”
If ever there was a deserving recipient, it’s Miller. The Newton, Mass. teen was diagnosed with spastic hemiplegia at birth. The condition leaves him paralyzed on his right side and also affects a full 50 percent of his brain function. In essence, he controls just one side of his body: his left. Despite that, he earned (legitimately earned, too) a spot on the Newton North junior varsity golf team, where he can drive the ball some 200 yards while swinging only left-handed. You can read plenty more about Miller from this terrific Boston Herald profile right here, though it’s missing an inspiring coda about the time he excited the world’s greatest basketball player and was given his shoes.