What Are a Father’s Rights When a Son Gets Famous and Wealthy?

Last updated on April 8, 2021

As we reported in July, a Washington D.C. lawyer has sued basketball superstar LeBron James and his mother for unspecified millions of dollars in damages, claiming that the pair has conspired for years to deny his paternity of LeBron. He persists in his paternity claim despite a DNA test that demonstrated he is not LeBron James’s father.

Late last week, LeBron and Gloria James’s attorneys filed a motion to have the man’s claims dismissed. They claim that the man, Leicester Stovell, has utterly failed to prove any of the facts he alleges.

What Stovell alleges is that he met Gloria James in 1984, when she was 15 or 16, and had sex with her. She later informed him that she was pregnant, he claims, but he did not acknowledge paternity or agree to pay any child support. Once LeBron James became a famous adult, however, Stovell decided to find out whether he was the athlete’s father, contacting James’s attorneys in 2007.

After a DNA test showed that he was not the father, Stovell alleged that the test had been falsified. Furthermore, he argues, LeBron and Gloria James have conspired to deny his paternity through fraud and misrepresentation.

“I recently have concluded that a comprehensive, sophisticated and well-funded effort might well have been under way for quite some time, perhaps beginning in its present form as early as when defendant LeBron James was in high school, to frustrate identification of his real father,” says Stovell’s June 23 court filing, “and that there is a likelihood that the father in question is me.”

If Stovell Were Shown to Be LeBron James’s Father, What Would He Gain?

Generally, paternity suits are brought for one of two reasons. A mother might bring a paternity suit, for example, to establish legal paternity in order to seek child support. A father might bring forward a paternity claim in order to lay the foundation for child custody or visitation rights.

Once a child is an adult, however, child custody and visitation no longer apply. Back child support might be ordered, but it would be Mr. Stovell paying it to James. Parents have limited inheritance rights — if a child has no other heirs and does not write a will. Parents have some other natural rights, but virtually all of them can easily be denied by the adult child.

“Stovell may truly believe that he is the father of LeBron James, even though a DNA test has told him otherwise,” says the James’s motion to dismiss the case. “But his delusions do not give rise to a cause of action against either Gloria or LeBron James.”

Stovell apparently disagrees. He claims that establishing his paternity of LeBron James would lead to numerous financial and commercial opportunities.

CNN described the James’s response to that claim as “mocking.”

“Stovell’s claims for millions of dollars from his putative son and Gloria James are based upon rank speculation,” reads the court filing, “that a man who claims that as a 29-year-old lawyer he got a 15-year-old girl pregnant during a one-night stand and who never contributed a penny in child support would earn millions in commercial endorsements by crawling out of the woodwork after the child he never gave a thought to became an NBA star.”


LeBron James seeks dismissal of lawsuit over paternity claims” (CNN, August 30, 2010)

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