Washington attorney Leicester Bryce Stovell remembers that night on 1983. He was at Chinatown bar d.c. space, and he had his eye on a woman: Gloria James. He took her home, only to hear from her a few months later. She was pregnant, and planned to name the baby LeBron.
“Well, if he’s mine, make sure he plays basketball,” he told her. And Stovell’s former lover agreed—-that baby grew up to be Miami Heat superstar LeBron James.
Of course, according to Gloria James and a paternity test, Stovell’s version of events didn’t happen. Undeterred after losing a previous lawsuit over whether he is James’ father, however, Stovell is back.
“I’m not certain that I’m LeBron’s father—-it just looks extremely likely based upon all the information that’s available to me,” says Stovell, who believes the NBA MVP himself tampered with the paternity test.
In a lawsuit filed this month, Stovell argues that his “son” has defamed him by telling a Sports Illustrated reporter that his father abandoned him. Because of coverage of the previous lawsuit, people naturally assume that Stovell is the father in question, injuring his credibility practicing law, according to the suit.
“My father wasn’t around when I was a kid,” James says in the Sports Illustrated interview at the center of the case. Stovell argues that because people believe he is James’ father, clients have refused to hire him for some legal work. In fact, Stovell says, it’s not his fault—-he had no idea until a few years ago that he could be James’ father.
Stovell wants $500,000 in damages from his purported son. James’ attorney declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Stovell may not have the paternity test on his side, but he does have the testimony of Rolando Pharr, an Akron, Ohio, man who claims to have worked with James’ mother when the future basketball player was a child. In a deposition included in the lawsuit, Pharr claims that Gloria James told him her son’s father’s name, which, Pharr reacted to as “a fucked up name.” That “fucked up name,” Pharr realized a few years ago, was none other than Leicester Bryce Stovell.
And Pharr should know about James—-he’s one of six Ohio men in a group called Free Afrika who claim have to participated in a “Dr. J Christening” of a young James. And what’s a “Dr. J Christening”? A polygraph examination of Pharr, included as evidence in Stovell’s lawsuit, explains:
Did you raise LeBron James in the “Kunta Kinte” style three separate times and say, “I christen thee the next Dr. J” each time?
Did the members of Free Afrika toast LeBron, “To the next Dr. J” after the second time you raised him up?
In exchange for performing the christening, the participants claim in a video unrelated to Stovell’s lawsuit that they deserve $6 million from James and his mother.
But while Pharr may looking for a payday, Stovell says his own investigation is about family. “It’s fundamentally my attitude towards families and family relationships,” he says. “I think they are immensely important things for everyone and I think there’s a moral dimension to how we treat these relationships.”
Photo courtesy of Leicester Bryce Stovell
Correction: Due to a reporting error, this post initially misstated the amount of money Stovell requested in his complaint.