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Allison Farrand/NBAE via Getty LeBron James at the opening of his I Promise school in Akron, Ohio in
For years, LeBron James has inspired kids with his prowess on the basketball court. Now he wants to send the same encouraging message through storytelling.
On Tuesday, the NBA star released his second kids' book, We Are Family, which follows five friends as they navigate life and the basketball season. The middle-grade novel is a follow up to his picture book debut, I Promise, which was inspired by his school of the same name. (The book, co-written with Andrea Williams, is published by HarperCollins Children's Books.)
"I believe kids need some inspiration and hope to go for their dreams," James, 36, shares in an email Q&A with PEOPLE. "In middle school, there's a lot of life and learning happening, and I experienced all those feelings of stress and uncertainty about so many things at such a young age — much like the kids in my I PROMISE program are going through today."
"With this book," he continues, "we wanted to continue to share the message that even if it feels like life is throwing you a bunch of obstacles, if you work hard, believe in yourself and the people around you, and never let anything get in your way, everything will work itself out."
James drew from his own experiences growing up in Akron, Ohio, when he wrote We Are Family.
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HarperCollins Children’s Books
"The premise came very easily and naturally because I can relate to a lot of those experiences. Being raised by a single mom and wanting to take care of her," he says. "Seeing basketball as my only way out of the situation we were in. Being part of a community and a family that helped get me through the hard times to achieve my potential."
The athlete and philanthropist explains that he has a "natural connection" to the character Jayden, the main protagonist who joins his friends to save their basketball season.
"He wants to do everything he can to make it in basketball because it's his passion, but even more, it's his way of giving back to his mom and his family that sacrificed everything so he could be successful," writes James. "When I was growing up in the inner city, my motivation was my mom and being able to take care of her. But I knew I couldn't do it alone. Like Jayden, I had a group of friends and mentors that were more like family that made me who I am today."
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James doesn't want the kids at his school or his young readers to doubt their abilities or give up on their dreams.
"If it's a dream of yours and you're passionate about it, you can't let a roadblock or some adversity or something that doesn't go your way burst that dream into flames," he explains. "The idea of giving up doesn't sit well with me, and I don't want it to sit well with any kid because for me, there were times when my dreams very easily could not have become a reality."
James' message: He made it, and so can you.
"I'm sitting here today telling you every dream can absolutely become reality," he says. "You just have to go for it."
We Are Family is on sale now.