LeBron Teams Up with Microsoft to Launch Kid-Friendly Website


CLEVELAND (AP) - LeBron James couldn't leave Las Vegas without making one last creative move - off the court.

Cleveland's All-Star forward capped a glitzy few days of party hopping and hoops by teaming with Microsoft Corp.'s MSN to launch lebron.msn.com, a storybook style Web site about his life designed for kids and teens.

In addition to broadening his iconic image through his latest business venture, James is hoping the innovative Web site will motivate youngsters worldwide with positive messages of encouragement and his own story of perseverance.

"I've always wanted to have a place where kids can see all aspects of my personality - where I can really talk with them about where I came from, what I do, what I have achieved in my life and what my goals are," James said in a phone interview from Las Vegas with The Associated Press.

"Kids can follow me on a day-to-day basis, and I want to inspire them."

James' interest in working with kids appealed to Microsoft, which first partnered with the 22-year-old last summer as one of the sponsors of his annual King for Kids Bike-a-thon in his hometown of Akron.

Microsoft recognized James' enormous crossover appeal to a wider audience and signed him to an endorsement deal. In less than four years as a pro, James has become one of the NBA's signature players - if not the face of the league.

The leading vote getter for this year's All-Star game, James recently appeared in TV ads for Microsoft's launch of its Windows Vista operating system. He's the first NBA player the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant has used to promote its products, and he may do more projects in the future.

For James, the partnership with Microsoft was a natural. He was already a fan of Xbox, the company's wildly popular video gaming system before adding the company to his impressive business portfolio. James has over $150 million in endorsement deals with Nike, Sprite and others.

"Anytime I enter a partnership or become part of a family, it's with someone I share the same values with," he said. "It's no different with Microsoft. This is a great opportunity to make people happy."

On the new Web site, kids will be able to learn more about James, who has taken a proactive role in the content.

"It's his voice," said Joanne Bradford, a Microsoft vice president and media officer for MSN. "We are doing it exactly the way he wants it. It's not about selling anything."

With a mouse click, people can watch videos to learn more about James' life on and off the basketball court. There are also places to enter contests; download pictures and other images of James; check on his latest statistics and see how the Cavaliers are doing.

But the Web site's primary intent, James said, is to help educate youngsters through activities and challenges.

James, who was raised by a single mother, will offer kids practical advice from his own experiences, struggles and successes. They can then chart their progress and share stories with others.

As a kid, James couldn't have dreamed of using the internet to follow boyhood hero Michael Jordan.

"I wish," he said.

No athlete of James' caliber has embarked on a similar project, said Bradford, who credited the loyalty and vision of the superstar and his business partners at getting the Web site started.

"He is willing to try new things," she said. "I was just impressed with how much he wanted to give back - to youth and working mothers. ... I find the story of his life more impressive than his success on the court."