While Lebron James may not have surpassed Michael Jordan as the greatest basketball on the basketball court (well, at least in my opinion), it is a different story, off the court.
Both Michael Jordan and Lebron James are icons of their time.
During the 90’s, Jordan was must see TV. His sneakers were top sellers (and are still to this day), he was an endorsement magnet for commercials and advertisements, and he was the greatest basketball player in the world.
However, ‘His Airness’ never used his platform to get involved in any political affairs or social issues, at least not until recently.
Lebron will be the first to admit that he wants to be like Mike. And to be fair, Lebron is a lot like Mike. He, too, has amassed enormous wealth and fame, and is also the greatest basketball player in the world (sorry, it’s not Russell Westbrook or James Harden).
Yet, while Lebron might not have had the career, at least so far, equal to that Michael Jordan had, it is undeniable that his impact on the black community, as well as his impact politically, is much greater than Jordan’s.
Michael Jordan declined to endorse Democrat Mayor Harvey Grant in his bid in the 1990 and 1996 election for Senate against known racist and bigoted Republican Jesse Holmes. Jordan famously stated, “Republicans buy sneakers too” implying that he didn’t want to lose valuable sneaker sales by potentially alienating Republicans.
Jordan took a lot of flack for his comment, particularly from the black community, with some African Americans feeling that he was more concerned with money than racial fairness and civil rights.
On the other hand, Lebron James has been much more active politically, endorsing Hillary Clinton in this past election, claiming that he wanted to build a better America for his kids. He even spoke at the Democratic National Convention.
James has also been involved heavily in civil rights activism, publicly supporting the Black Lives Matter protests, even wearing the famous “I Can’t Breathe” warmup shirt after the death of Eric Garner. At the ESPY Awards last summer, he and a few other fellow NBA players, spoke out on the need for political activism. He has also done much for his community of Akron in Ohio, donating millions of dollars to public services and helping impoverished children.
So, why do I bring this up now?
Well, Lebron James has been in the news recently, and while it might be because of the devastating 113-91 loss to the Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday, it is also because Lebron James was recently the victim of a racist hate crime.
Earlier in the week, James’ Los Angeles home was vandalised with racist graffiti. The “n-word” had been spray-painted on the front gate of his home. James spoke about the incident in a press conference before the finals.
“No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being black in America is tough,” James stated.
Lebron also referenced the death of Emmett Till and spoke about how Till’s mom wanted to show the world about the true horrors of racism. He spoke about his concerns for his children and the world they are growing up in.
While I have been a little bit concerned about athletes taking political stances in the past, Lebron’s messages on race that he spoke about during the press conference are extremely important. Lebron not only showed that racism is still very much alive, but that even successful, famous people can be targets of racism.
That’s a big deal, because for a lot of us, it’s hard to imagine these super star celebrities as regular people. While many of us associate racism in America with the lower class, Lebron reminded us that all African-Americans, regardless of social class or celebrity, are still fighting racism today.
Lebron’s statement, “Being black in America is tough” is powerful because it is so true. Even with the world appearing to be more and more accepting, racial hatred still exists and surfaces too often. While America has certainly come a long way, it’s important to remember that we still have a long way to go.