The fatal day of chocolate kisses and giant red hearts is upon us—Valentine’s Day, the day when our thoughts turn to the love and relationships in our lives. But as my thoughts stray, I cannot help but think of those men and women who stand at the forefront of their athletic fields. These notable men and women have succeeded in their realm of expertise. But how do they fare when it comes to love?
The news is flooded with stories of break-ups and ugly divorces, leaving us wondering if there is any hope for romantic happiness for professional athletes.
LeBron James met his match in Savannah Brinson, who has been a steady presence for LeBron throughout the years. They met at a high school football game in Akron, Okla. Although they attended different schools, they formed a close relationship—so close that Savannah became pregnant during her senior year of high school. Their first child, LeBron James, Jr. was born in 2004. Then three years later, their second child, Bryce Maximus, was born—the same year LeBron played in his first NBA Finals with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Savannah stood by LeBron for eight years before he finally popped the question. On a starry New Year’s Eve night in 2011, LeBron proposed to Savannah in front of all his Miami teammates. The couple married in 2013, celebrating with 200 guests including Beyonce and Jay-Z. From Akron, Okla. to the bright nights of Miami, LeBron and Savannah have remained together throughout the entirety of LeBron’s career. They even started a furniture line together, probably so that they have comfy couches to sit on after LeBron retires.
Although he jumped from Toronto Blue Jays to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim finally to New York Yankees, Vernon Wells has remained faithful to Charlene. They met in high school and were friends for a period before formalizing their romantic relationship. The couple married in 2001, just one year before Wells was given the chance to be an everyday player for the Toronto Blue Jays. You could say that the Wells family landed the jackpot when Vernon signed the 6th largest contract in MLB history in 2006. He now has a net worth of about $75 million, and has the free time to dedicate to his family and the Vernon Wells Perfect 10 Charity. Charlene and Vernon Wells have two sons, tens of millions of dollars in the bank, and a relationship that has persisted for over 20 years.
Then there is Deron Williams, who met his wife Amy in the second grade. But when they reached high school, their childhood friendship blossomed into something more. The couple fostered a love for one another and for basketball, as they both played on their high school basketball teams in Texas. They married in 2006, just one year after Williams was drafted by the Utah Jazz. Deron Williams currently plays for the Brooklyn Nets and Amy cares for their four children. They have three daughters and an adopted son, Deron Jr. In spite of his busy career as an NBA player, Deron has maintained a strong relationship with his childhood love.
But the couple that has been romantically exclusive for probably the longest amount of time is Philip and Tiffany Rivers. They began dating in the 7th grade. From Decatur, Ala. to the big leagues in the NFL, Tiffany and Philip have remained committed to one another. So committed that Tiffany converted to Catholicism to align with Philip’s faith. The two married after their freshman year of college in 2001 and promptly started building a family. In 2002, their eldest daughter, Halle, was born. Having entered the league in 2004, Philip Rivers can boast one of the longest relationships and the largest family in the NFL, with one lovely wife and seven kids.
What is one common thread throughout all of these successful marriages? Most started out as high school sweethearts—some even younger than that. It seems that in the face of fame and glory and million dollar contracts, the relationships which maintain a steady presence are the ones that begin prior to fame. For those who reside in the limelight, it can be difficult to distinguish true friends from fame seekers. In the case of these professional athletes, they have been successful in their relationships because they were lucky enough to find them before they achieved wealth and glory.
Here’s a piece of advice: before you make it big, marry one of your fellow Hoyas so you won’t have to worry about a future significant other smashing your car with a golf club.