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LeBron James Donates $2.5 Million to Smithsonian’s African-American History Museum

Photograph by Flickr user Erik Drost.

LeBron James will give the National Museum of African American History and Culture $2.5 million to go toward an exhibit about the late boxer Muhammad Ali, the Smithsonian announced early Thursday. The display, “Muhammad Ali: A Force for Change,” has been on view since the museum’s September opening and includes moments from Ali’s life in and out of the boxing ring.

“Every professional athlete, regardless of race and gender, owes a huge debt of gratitude to Muhammad Ali,” James said in a Smithsonian press release.

Ali, who died June 3 at age 74, is represented in several of the museum’s exhibit halls, with artifacts going as far back as the training headgear and robe he wore during his early training days at the 5th Street Gym in Miami. Other moments in Ali’s life, including his anti-Vietnam War activism, refusal to join the Army, and torch-bearing duties at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, are also scattered about the museum.

James’s donation comes from his family foundation and his business partner, Maverick Carter. Both James’s and Carter’s names will be added to the museum’s list of founding donors. The Cleveland Cavaliers forward joins other NBA legends who have given substantial gifts to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, including Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, the latter for whom one of the main sports galleries is named.

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Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.