LeBron, first lady Michelle Obama hosting education event

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James welcomed a high-profile guest to show kids in his hometown that they can grow up to be anything they want.

The NBA star appeared with first lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday to celebrate the importance of education and to challenge thousands of children in his family foundation’s program to finish college.

James and Obama took the stage together inside the University of Akron’s Rhodes Arena, a venue where the four-time league MVP played many times while in high school.

Obama pointed out to the children and their parents that she grew up on the south side of Chicago, "where we didn’t have a lot of money or a lot of resources."

She then turned toward James, who wore a blue T-shirt with "We Are Family" — one of his foundation’s slogans — on the front.

"If we can be here," she said, "we know you can be here, too."

During the summer, James announced a partnership with the university to provide free four-year educations to city students who qualify. Obama praised James for those efforts and reminded the kids they are being given a unique opportunity.

"You’ve got college paid for. Are you going to do the work to get there?" she said.

The crowd erupted with a resounding "Yes."

Obama recently launched her Reach Higher public awareness campaign to encourage students to aim higher than just a high school diploma.

James, who bypassed college by going straight to the pros, grew up in Akron, raised by a single mother. The father of three has spent much of his career giving back to his community and reminded the kids that he represents them every day.

And like his young fans, Obama referred to James as "Mr. LeBron" and said she and her husband appreciate the 30-year-old for being more than a great basketball player.

"We love this man because of the man that he is, not because of the athlete he is," she said. "He is a role model."