LeBron James warms up before a game an NBA game this season. Aside from leading the Lakers deep into the postseason, he has been a leading voice in the fight for social justice this year. Photo courtesy of NBC Sports.
KOBE MOSLEY | STAFF REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
Even before the NBA restart, we knew LeBron James was not afraid to speak his mind on social matters. He had done it after the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012, again after the police killing of Eric Garner in 2014 and once more during the ESPY Awards Show in 2016.
However, things were different this year. The global pandemic, social justice protests and a numb feeling from the sudden passing of Kobe Bryant all loomed over the NBA season like dark storm clouds.
As the face of the NBA, James was asked a lot from fans. On one hand, he would have to be the leading voice from the NBA on racial inequality and social justice. On the other hand, he would be expected to perform at his usual otherworldly level and lead the Lakers to their first NBA Finals since 2010. If that wasn’t enough, he had to do it all in a bubble.
The first game since the shutdown was almost 3 months ago. With all that James has done since then, I’d say he’s done a pretty good job.
Before he even resumed playing, James was among multiple professional athletes who started the More than A Vote initiative. This program raises awareness for voter suppression, teaches the long-term impact of voting and helps people register to vote.
With this year being an election year, it’s more important than ever to educate people about the importance of their vote. Being a first-time voter and an African-American, I appreciate the privilege of voting and love that my societal role models are advocating for the same values.
James hasn’t wasted a single opportunity to speak on recent issues or shed light on what we can do to better America. It seems like every press conference or interview he’s done has involved the importance of voting or the reality of being Black in America.
Some of James’ most polarizing words have come in his post-game press conferences.
The most memorable example came after a Game 4 win against the Portland Trailblazers in the first round of the playoffs. This was two days after yet another police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wis.
In the press conference, you could see multiple emotions on James’ face. There was anguish, disbelief, anger and fear in his face. He used words like “scared” and “terrified” to describe his mental state and the mental state of the entire Black community.
This is real life for Black people in America. A majority of my Black friends and I have had negative and fearful experiences with police. All of them seemed to be racially driven. And although James may be the most famous African-American on the planet, even he can’t escape racism.
The Black community is tired of racism going unchecked. We need more people with influence to join the fight. And the more people we get on our side like James, the better chance we have to enact change.
With all of the work being done to bring awareness to the social state of our country, it’s easy to forget about the basketball being played in the bubble. James has not only been one of the most vocal players in the bubble, but he has been one of the most dominant.
In the 20 games he’s played in the bubble, James is averaging 24.6 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.2 assists. He also leads the league in assists. The Lakers are a series away from their first NBA Finals appearance since 2010, and James’ ninth in ten seasons.
In my opinion, it’s nearly impossible to not put LeBron James’ name among the most influential athletes who double as social activists. Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown, Colin Kaepernick. All of these players were willing to risk their careers and livelihoods for the betterment of their communities. Though James hasn’t had to make some of the same sacrifices as those players, he has proven that he is more than willing to do so.
From the I Promise School to More than A Vote, James has done more in his 17-year career than some politicians. More importantly, he has shown that making the world a better place for his kids is way more important than anything he can do physically with a basketball.
Actions like those are what truly makes a king.