WASHINGTON (AP) - LeBron James of the Miami Heat has received the "Champion of Youth" award from the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
The award was presented to James by actor Denzel Washington, the club's national spokesman. The award recognizes the relationship that the two-time NBA MVP has had with clubs across the country for the past several years.
In a telephone interview, James said he was "humbled" to both receive the honor and spend time with kids, which has been one of his priorities during the ongoing NBA lockout.
"I know I get a lot of headlines for what I do," James said. "But being around these kids these last two days and hearing their stories, I can really relate to them. I was one of those underprivileged kids where people thought we were a statistic and didn't have a way out and would fall into the traps of life and our surroundings. For these kids to have a way out, that's amazing and I'm happy to be a part of it."
James formally received the award Tuesday night. Wednesday, he remained in Washington for more ceremonies and the launch of a new campaign called "Great Futures Start Here." That campaign includes a 1-minute, 45-second public service advertisement directed by Ron Howard and including about 20 BGCA alumni like Shaun White, Shaquille O'Neal, Magic Johnson and Sugar Ray Leonard.
James does not appear in that ad _ it was filmed in June, around the time Miami was in the NBA finals _ but is helping promote the campaign.
"We've had this relationship with LeBron for five years," said Frank Sanchez, the clubs' vice president for sports and entertainment. "He believes in the work that we do. He understands the kids and kids' needs. He understands what it's like to grow up in a family with one parent. He understands what it means to grow up in a community that might be in duress. LeBron understands that at his core."
James has remained hopeful throughout the offseason that the lockout would end in time for the 2011-12 season to go on without interruption, and that thinking hasn't changed. James said he and many of his Heat teammates are continuing to work toward getting ready for the season, despite the ongoing uncertainty because of the lack of a new collective bargaining agreement.
NBA training camps are scheduled to open early next month.