MAY 11, 2023
In a world of oversharing celebrities, Savannah James has managed to do the impossible: attain popularity without having to say a word. She came up in a time when other basketball wives were making names for themselves as reality-TV stars and influencers, but instead of joining in, James opted for the sweet serenity of a private life — or as private as one’s life can be while married to one of the best basketball players to ever play in the NBA. “That time, to be honest, was spent pouring into my boys,” she tells me from a corner booth on the rooftop of an exclusive members-only club in West Hollywood. “I just really wanted to enjoy being a mom and supporting my husband. I wasn’t super-comfortable with putting myself out like that.”
When Savannah met her would-be husband, she was a softball player and cheerleader, and LeBron James was a junior at a rival high school. When you hear their origin story, it makes sense that she has been hesitant to step into the spotlight — after all, she had no idea that falling in love with the boy who was thoughtful enough to bring her the Outback Steakhouse leftovers she’d accidentally left behind on their first date in 2002 would lead to the life she lives today. This year will mark 10 years of marriage for the couple, and 22 together overall. Sustaining a relationship for that long is a rare feat in a league constantly riddled with cheating rumors, but Mrs. James has never once felt the need to address gossip publicly. In fact, the 36-year-old does her best to avoid internet comments altogether.
“That is going to put you in a rabbit hole that you don’t want to be in,” she says. Instead, she puts that energy into self-care, protecting her peace, letting herself have fun with “new experiences” in the limelight, and evolving her personal style — as evidenced by her beige waist-length Prada jacket paired with a black Prada bucket hat atop what the TikTok girlies would call a “22-inch bust-down,” middle-part blonde wavy unit with brown lowlights in the back. But perhaps the most positive reflection of the work James has done to embrace her inner light is the custom gold-and-diamond chain necklace plated with each of her children’s names, a fly nod to the position she holds most dear.
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If there’s one thing James has felt comfortable broadcasting to the public, it’s that she doesn’t play about her three kids: LeBron Jr. (Bronny), Bryce, and Zhuri. Her unwavering support of all three is clear, from appearing with daughter Zhuri on a shared YouTube channel to passionately cheering on her boys at their (often celebrity-studded) Sierra Canyon High School basketball games. “The fact that we started at home in our comfort zone and where our village was, was a huge part of molding who they are as humans now,” she says, adding that her own parents, Jennifer and SK Brinson, deserve some credit for instilling the importance of prioritizing a strong family unit.
Lately, the internet has been having as much fun watching James lean all the way into being that girl as much as she’s enjoying it herself. Her 2.2 million followers wait with bated breath to see what high-fashion look or beauty tutorial she’s going to share next on social media. And with promises of new passion projects launching ahead, the First Lady of the James clan is ready for her turn on the court.
What’s a typical day like for you? Is there such a thing as a typical day in the James household?
You know what? There is. We really thrive in our routine. Everyone: LeBron, Bronny, Bryce, Zhuri. I get up, and I usually take Zhuri to school. I don’t like to work out in the morning just because I don’t like to wake up to work out. But I do like to get it done at some point during the day. I find time to eat for the most part. I’ve been juicing; I do intermittent fasting.
Bronny is of age, so he drives to practice, and Zhuri, with her volleyball, only practices on Fridays and Sundays. She dances at school, and I have help with her from our nanny, Courtney. By the time everyone is home, we’re all chilling; we’ll have dinner, we’ll watch a movie. We love horror movies as a family.
A horror movie will give me nightmares for days.
Really? It’s just entertainment to us. I know that’s so weird and dark to say, but we love horror movies and we love watching them together. And I usually figure it out within the first 15 minutes, and I’m like, This is the killer. This is what’s going to happen. Usually, I’m right. Pat myself on the back for that. I do really good.
Yeah. Zhuri likes to watch them, but I censor that.
Which one’s your favorite?
I’m definitely a cult-classic girl. I like Freddy. I like Jason. I like Michael Myers. I like the Scream series. The new one was really good. And I put it on my Instagram sometimes, but I’m a huge fan of the American Horror Story series. Definitely looking forward to that new season.
Photo: Katie McCurdy
Onto something similarly scary: Instagram. How did it feel to suddenly have people thirsting for you in the comments? Did you notice? Or were you just like, “I don’t know what’s going on the internet, I’m just doing me.”
I could see it and I appreciate it. Everyone wants to see that people are interested in what they’re doing at the time. I just took it as it came. Sometimes I’m like, “Oh, my gosh, a little bit much.” But I get it and I’m cool with it. I understood that maybe this is just where I’m at right now and this is my time to, I don’t know, be seen.
What’s the go-to to stay moisturized? Is it about having a good hydraulic-acid serum situation?
I love a serum. I think that helps a lot. I layer moisturizer. I have one that’s a lighter situation, one that’s a heavier situation. Chemically exfoliating really helped me a lot. My aesthetician gave me a peel pad. Skin Better Science. What exactly is in it? I’m not sure, but she does what she needs to do.
You’ve lived in L.A. for a few years now. How do you like it compared to Miami and Cleveland?
I really like L.A. and always wanted to live here. My brother lived here for a really long time, and I would visit him. Going to Miami was almost kind of a college experience for the both of us. But it was really fun; we had a great time. I grew up in Ohio, so I’m used to humidity. It’s so dry in L.A. I had to find a good aesthetician and skin-care routine and get to it, because my skin was bad.
Does the NBA finals season change the energy in the house? How do you guys keep the energy peaceful during that stressful time?
Things slow down a bit. The mind-set is giving “very focused.” Our routines don’t really change much. We’re just aware of what’s going on. We’re mindful of that. It’s been a long time, so we get it. We tread based on how the energy in the house is feeling. And it doesn’t really change. If anything, it just gets a little bit more exciting. Zhuri is now in her basketball era. She loves it.
Does she get what’s going on, now that she likes it?
Oh, my gosh. She’s the loudest in the house and is like, “Hey, Mom, what time does the game come on?”
I’ve always gotten the impression, from interviews I may have read or glimpses here and there, that you’re the kind of mom who’s very intentional about keeping your kids grounded. You know what I mean? And despite the fame and fortune they’re growing up into.
What are some ways you go about doing that, especially in L.A.?
They get it. They know who they are, they know who their dad is, and they just kind of move on with that. Personality-wise, it’s just not who they are. It’s not really a thing to them.
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How do you feel about the possibility of your sons becoming part of the next generation of the NBA? If that’s what they choose to do.
Yeah, I’m happy for them. Listen, I want nothing for them except for their happiness. That’s it. In whatever it is that they decide to do, I’m here supporting and rooting for them. I’m their biggest fan always. If they decide to go the NBA route or a different route, whatever that is, I’m here.
I think the difference between you and a lot of basketball moms is that because you guys are in that world already, you know exactly what they’ll be dealing with on the other end versus an idea of it.
Which is a blessing.
Is it messy for me to ask whose games you enjoy more?
That’s not messy at all. Listen, I’m ten toes down with my husband — always. But I enjoy seeing my boys become who they want to be and just seeing them do what they enjoy. I would say it is a toss-up now.
You were a mom of two boys for a while before you had Zhuri. How do you think that having a daughter impacted you as a woman and a mother?
Honey. It’s very different. Maybe last year sometime, we were sitting watching TV and having a conversation and all of a sudden she says, “Mommy, I want to be just like you … you dress so good and you do your makeup so good and you’re just so cool and you can dance …” It was all the things that were appealing to a 7-year-old at the time. It scared me, to be very honest.
It’s a lot of pressure. Someone’s watching you.
Every freaking move. I was already kind of in a place of working on myself; in the last four years, I’ve been on this intentional journey of being a better woman. So a part of me, when she said that, I was scared, but then I was kind of like, okay, well, I’m onto something. We just got to keep it moving in a positive direction. I’m just hoping that with all of the decisions that I’m making and the things that she’s seeing, when she’s 14, she’s still saying she wants to be like me. I try to pour into her every single day. As far as my inner child, I feel like I was like her.
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You’re considered a cool mom. Is there a sense of pride in that?
Yes. I just took the kids to Japan for spring break, and we were all at a table. I’m like, “Hey, guys, I got a question: Am I a regular mom or a cool mom?”
You mentioned a year of trying to become a better woman. What does that look like for you?
I’ve gone to therapy. Anything just to find out more about myself and the way that my brain functions in certain situations. I am a woman getting to a certain age and I need to be aging like the most amazing 19-whatever vintage wine on the market. I took a super-heavy intention with my health, moving my body, doing things that may sound weird, juicing for three months.
I went on a detox program. I enjoyed it. I felt like I was able to tap into meditation, and my mind was much clearer. I was able to make decisions that I feel like I might have been kind of wavering with had I not done it. It felt spiritual.
How do you feel your childhood in Ohio shaped you to be the kind of mother and person you are today? I read that you were talking about how your household was a safe place for your friends and for anybody who wanted to come over.
Growing up, we always did something together. It was always a gang of us. I had a ton of cousins, aunts, and uncles, and we always had fish fries and things like that at my grandmother’s house or at my aunt’s house. Having that sense of family, I always wanted to have that from my family. When we moved from Akron, we had to create a new family. Our friends became our family.
I think also having super-understanding, amazing, positive parents in my life was a part of what shaped me and my parenting style. I was given opportunities to make mistakes and work through them. I was an athlete, so I was given the opportunity to express myself in the ways of sports, and they let me jump off the walls and do all of the things, so a confidence in that and a freedom in that, which I also give my kids.
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You and your husband have been together since high school. At what point did you realize you were about to join him on this wild ride?
Everything was definitely in the moment. We were two kids who started dating, as any two high-school kids would. Believe it or not, I didn’t know that he was going to be what he is today.
What was your “Oh shit” moment? Like, “Oh, I fell in love with this dude who’s about to go where?” Was it the NBA draft?
I don’t know if I took it that seriously even then. You know what I’m saying? I really, truly didn’t know.
I’m a romantic, so I have to ask: When did you know he was the One?
It’s so corny.
Give us corny! The girls love corny.
I’m like, “Really, Savannah?” But it was two scenarios. For our first date, we went to Outback Steakhouse. I’m sure that’s a thing that everybody knows at this point. I took some food home, and when he dropped me off at home, I left the food in the car. I realized it once I got in the house, because then I was about to eat for real. But he called me and was like, “I got your food. I’m going to come back and drop it off.” And I’m like, “You just want to see me again. Okay, bring my food.”
And then the second one was in Akron. It was a snowstorm the night before and we didn’t have school the next day. He called me: “I’mma come and get you so we can go to breakfast.” I answered the phone like, “Hello? I’m asleep.” So I hung up the phone. I hopped up out of the bed so fast. I was so excited. As much as my body wanted to stay in that bed, my heart said, “No, we going to get breakfast.” And we spent the whole day together.
This is your tenth anniversary of marriage. What has being a wife taught you about marriage?
I had a really good view of real marriage with my mom and dad. There are ebbs and flows in marriage. That taught me to not be too hard on myself or too hard on him. And to give grace. You never know really what people — or your significant other, for that matter — are going through. I appreciate that same sentiment.
You can’t depend on someone else for your happiness. You have to be happy. It’s like I said, you can’t be anything to anyone if you’re not everything to yourself first. And that is with anyone when it comes to any relationship — your friends, your parents, your significant other, your kids, anybody.
Is there a misconception about you, or an idea about you that you feel is not really like you at all?
I don’t think so. I’m not a comment reader because I feel like that is going to put you into a rabbit hole that you don’t want to be in. I don’t think that there are misconceptions about me out there that I would even be inclined to address.
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Which friend are you? Are you the group-chat talker? Are you the girl we’ve been calling for days?
I’m not the group-chat talker. I’m the, “Where are you at? Are you alive? Hello?” I’m that one, like, “Oh, y’all, I didn’t even know where my phone was at. I’m sorry.” Definitely her, but I think I’m a fun friend. I’m the foodie friend. I’m the playlist friend. I got the tunes. I’m the listening friend. I’m the go-with-the-flow friend who helps you put down your baby hair and put on your lashes.
Are you the turn-up friend? Because I did see a little something from Usher’s Las Vegas residency the other day.
Yeah, I am the turn-up friend. I enjoy a good turn-up every now and then. The more ratchet, the better, to be honest.
It surprised me to see Ellen Pompeo in that video. Is Savannah James really friends with Meredith Grey?
Ellen is my girl. Our girls go to school together. They’re in the same class. And we actually met through my friend whose birthday it was. But Ellen is super-dope, super-cool. She’s an OG. I love Ellen.
What are the kind of things you like to do for fun?
Oh, my gosh, I love concerts, love to travel. I’ll take an 18-hour flight if I have to. I love to watch YouTube University and learn new tips and tricks with my makeup. I’m old school, so YouTube might sound extremely ancient considering TikTok and Instagram and all of the things. I told myself, I’m not joining the Tik-etyToks. The Tik-etyToks is for the children.
Have you always been into beauty?
I have. I definitely evolved. I grew up in the black eyeliner, black- red lip liner era. She was cute, but we are thankful for growth. Watching my mom do her makeup and her roller sets and stuff like that, I’ve always been interested. I used to scratch my sisters’ dandruff and grease their hair. I evolved, and I started to wash and blow-dry their hair. And then I evolved again, and I’m giving full-out silk presses. Kitchen beautician if you need me. Link’s in the bio. Even with Zhuri now, and doing her hair is a task and a half.
What’s your favorite makeup trend right now?
I’m a true millennial. I do a lot of my makeup now just with concealer. I haven’t been using foundation as much. I will, but just for a day-to-day, it’ll be concealer, a little powder, a little bronzer, lip liner, a gloss, and keep it real.
Photo: Katie McCurdy
What are your go-to products?
I love the Lancôme concealer. Make Up For Ever HD Foundation. I love my Fenty glosses, the Heat ones, love, love. And to be honest, my lip liners. I get them wherever I can, whether that’s a CVS or at Sephora or whatever. Got to be a brown lip liner. I try them all.
What about fashion? When did you decide to double down on being a bad bitch?
Coming from Ohio, I was an urbanwear girl. I love my Rocawear. I love my Enyce, my Ecko. I was wearing it all and loved it. I was killing it. Imma wear a velour suit with some Air Forces. Then I actually started to become more aware of fashion brands. I started to incorporate those things into my wardrobe. Now, obviously, I have my stylist, Casey, whom I love. Icon.
Your first business was a juice shop in Miami. Talk to me about what your entrepreneurial pursuits are right now. Is there anything new that you’re excited about pursuing?
I’m invested in Lobos Tequila, a web 3 start-up called Lockerverse, and a natural deodorant company called NEZ. Definitely have some passion projects I’m working on, one of which is with a partner, one of which is on my own. And I’m super-excited about them. I think they’re going to be amazing. They’re going to be well received.
You can’t tell us, but can we have a hint? Is it product based? Is it a medium? Is it visual?
It’s all of the things.
What would 16-year-old Savannah have to say about where you are today? From being one of those girls to living this life that you now have, that I’m sure no one can really envision, what do you think she would say about how things turned out?
“And this is what you doing? That’s crazy.” Those would be her exact words. But to be honest, I think that the things and the places to see and all of that is amazing, but I think the personal world is where 16-year-old Savannah would be the most proud of where I am today.
What’s been the biggest sign of growth for you?
I think the biggest sign of growth is a comfort in self, in the decisions that I’m making and the things that I’m doing. Confidence in trusting myself.
LeBron has said many times how he would be nothing without you — how does that make you feel? Is it affirming? Or is it like, “You’re damn right”
It’s a little bit of both. It’s very nice to hear that the sacrifices that you’ve made and the work that you’ve put into making sure that our children are raised properly and that he has a stable environment that’s full of love and good vibes and all the things — it’s a testament to be told that. I think it’s a testament to myself to be like, “Yeah, thank you. I did that.”
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What kind of self-care do you practice?
I practice self-care daily. I don’t think that you can get enough self-care. I can’t be anything to anyone if I’m not everything to myself. I prioritize that. I love an Epsom-salt bath. I don’t know why, but a form of therapy for me is going to get my nails done. I don’t have people come to the house. I want to leave, and I like to drive and listen to my playlists.
I like to go get body scrubs and massages, and I love to sit in the sauna. I meditate usually when I’m in the sauna. I take breaks. I like to sometimes do staycations; I’ll just get a hotel in the city and spend the night. Or I take trips with my friends. It depends on which cup needs to be filled, if it’s a personal cup or a fun friend cup.
What are you most proud of?
I am going to be mushy and say I am most proud of the humans whom I’ve created. They are amazing. They surprise me every day just with how intelligent and kind and amazing they are. I pat myself on the back, as well as give high-fives to my husband, because I tell him all the time, “We did that. We did that.” I am so proud of myself to say that I am not the person I was five years ago. And I’m looking forward to whatever the universe has for me. I’m going into everything super-open and being with my heart and just available to all the good things.
Tell me what you see for yourself in ten years.
I hope I’m still supporting my kids to the highest level of whatever it is that they’re doing. Chilling, being an amazing wife, traveling with my husband. Hopefully he’s retired by then. Enjoying the world and places and things that I haven’t experienced yet. I hope for myself that my businesses are booming and bringing light and use to people who find it interesting to them or of service to them. And still aging like wine.
And that your kids still think you’re cool.
Yes. Always. This is always going to be the sentiment.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Photography by Katie McCurdy
Fashion Director Jessica Willis
Hair by Ricky Wing
Makeup by Alana Palau
Set Design by James M. Rene
Tailoring by Hasmik Kourinian
Production by Rowan Productions