What legacy will Lebron James leave behind?

Zane Turner, [email protected]

Lebron James, the greatest professional basketball player in the twenty first century requires no introduction as he is truly an era defining superstar bolstering the impressive resume of; National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Most Valuable Player (MVP) four times over,  fifteen time all star, and three time NBA champion, but behind all that shine he strives to be a civil rights activist.  James has supported many civil rights movements throughout his career, as well as creating his own school that is completely non profit with over two hundred and forty students.  He also created the Lebron James Family Foundation donating money to charities such as Boys and Girls Club of America, After-School All Stars, and Gabriel’s Angel Foundation.  Pledging a total of 41 million dollars in scholarships to kids born in low income neighborhoods, who live without the opportunity to attend college.  A true leader by example James has done more than most NBA players, but still only pledges a small amount of his 88.7 Million dollar salary, making him number five on the highest paid athlete list. 

NBA athletes seem to be the most charitable athletes in the world with the likes of Raptors Center Serge Ibaka donating most of his salary back home to the Republic of Congo, and Hornets forward Bismack Byombo who’s from the same country, has opened schools, and set scholarships in place for kids.  Many NBA players set aside their entire salary to go to Coronavirus relief such as Spurs guard Patty Mills.  

“We want change, We want Justice” League MVP Giannis Antetekumpo screams from the front of a protest in Milwaukee.  NBA players are also not foreign to the idea of change, so when civil unrest blossomed earlier in the year many NBA players were at the forefront of that charge for change, such as Bucks Forward Giannis Antetekumpo, and Celtics forward Jaylen Brown both leading peaceful protests in their home cities. 

Which leads to the question where was “The King” Lebron James when this started?  As he didn’t lead or participate in any protests but spoke out on the issue. 

“I know how I work as well. I know that I can be just as effective by the way I work with using my platform, using my voice, doing the things that I’ve been doing behind closed doors to be very effective as well”  He used his voice over not just the NBA but American culture to spout that all lives can’t matter until black lives do, and his voice is still echoing to this day.  There has been one instance where James has not been the ideal leader over civil issues.  

“Fight For Freedom Stand with Hong Kong”  On October 4th 2019 Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey spoke out on the social issues in Hong Kong.  At this time Hong Kong was threatening to pass an extradition bill that would allow them to extradite to countries that did not have extradition agreements such as China.  China had been trying to control Hong Kong’s government since it became a country, planting officials in its federal government to dissolve Hong Kong into China.  As China is a communist country with little representation from the people, Hong Kong’s populace had no desire to become a part of China’s industrious system so they revolted, leading to mass protests throughout the country.  The tweet caused a catastrophic reaction from the league as well as causing his job to be at risk, as China asked for his resignation but the league dismissed the request.  The NBA did not release an official statement about the issue, but was in danger of losing 40% of its audience.  Some teams such as the Toronto Raptors came out in direct support of Morey and Hong Kong when they put the slogan on their T-Shirts before a game.

“We all do have freedom of speech, but at times, there are ramifications for the negative that can happen when you’re not thinking about others and you’re only thinking about yourself,”James then said “I don’t want to get into a word- or sentence-feud with Daryl Morey, but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand, and he spoke.” James said when asked about the controversial tweet calling Morey “misinformed” and “not educated about the situation” slandering the support for the people fighting for basic rights.  This did not look good on James as he faced backlash from the people supporting Hong Kong, but it was more than just a statement.  James showed that if his money was on the line he would choose money over civil change, which is what will separate him from the rest of the legendary sports Icons.  Muhamed Ali was the greatest boxer in the world at one point, even though others have proven better and more skillful, but he will always be one of the greats for the things he did in civil justice.  Protesting an unfair draft refusing to go to war that he did not want to fight, he put not only his money on the line but his security and safety for a better world.  Kareem Abdul Jabar, one of the greatest centers to bless the hardwood will be forever memorialized as a civil rights activist, standing up for change.  Reopresenting the muslim community when it did not have a voice.  James has the respect and voice for change but decides not to use it, the boycotts last thursday showed this, as he was a prevalent voice to continue the playoffs despite other teams voting contrary.  Despite being in favor of the boycotts at first, he then quickly traded positions, and voted to continue the playoffs despite an opportunity for change.  As we have seen throughout history money can’t solve all problems, sometimes pressure must be applied, and Lebron James can not apply that pressure and will not be able to until he sets his money aside and truly fights for a better world.  His legacy as a basketball star is undeniable, but when the ball stops bouncing will Lebron James pick it up? and cement his legacy as something more, or stay dormant from his high perch and be remembered as just a player.