Written by: Lela Keshishian
In 2012 Kanye West rapped, “went from most hated to champion god flow, I guess that’s a feeling only me and LeBron know” back in 2012 on New God Flow, he was referring to their two most controversial moments in their careers.
Kanye and that whole VMA’s thing, and when King James was denounced for his weakness to choke at pivotal game moments, and causing his entire home state of Ohio to having a burning hate for James when he decided to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat — not to forget he revealed the news on live television, a segment named “The Decision”. It was in everyone’s face, his jersey was being burned by those who rode so hard for him in his city. For Cleveland fans, it got even worse, but for LeBron and his fans the hate was a mere whisper: he won his first NBA championship in 2012 with the Heat. Then again in 2012.
LeBron James finally accomplished the goal for any player in the league: the championship. The ring. The bragging rights. For some reason, however, it was not enough.
He is LeBron James, at the end of the day. Being awarded the Rookie of the Year in 2004, NBA scoring champion in 2008, a 4× NBA Most Valuable Player, 12× NBA All-Star, the world still wanted more from him. With an infamous chase down block that had to be scientifically broken down, providing versatility as he has the ability to play all five positions and of course his multi-faceted offense and passing prowess. Some will argue he’s the best basketball player of all time, whereas some will deem him not worthy to even be in that category. Greatest athlete of all time? Now, that’s a different conversation.
Everyone knows about the 6’8”, 250 pound small forward from Cleveland. The name “LeBron James” is not a stranger to anyone of any profession or interest. His superman-like playing style has his die-hard fans, die-hard haters and everyone in-between all able to meet at a common line: he dominates.
In 2014 during his free agency, LeBron gave the world something new to talk about. He wrote a letter which was posted by Sports Illustrated. He said it took him four years to realize his relationship with Northeast Ohio is greater than basketball itself, and for that, he was returning home. But what was most important for him was what always had been: bringing the trophy to Cleveland.
It took a 2015 finals loss to the then-new NBA favourite Stephen Curry and his Golden State Warriors. It took headlines saying that James’ legacy was fading with every finals loss. It took being painted as the bad guy in the city that took him back with open arms and the weight of not being able to fulfill his promise to stand back up stronger and regain his credibility as a man in the league.
Doing what had never been done in the NBA Finals, James with the help of Kyrie Irving and the rest of the Cavalier gang came back from a 1-3 deficit against a rematch to the Warriors in 2016, he made it happen. LeBron was able to hold the Larry O’Brien trophy in a Cavaliers jersey.
What happened next? Every emotional photo of James crying exuberant tears was plastered front page everywhere, in every city. He did it. And one thing he maintained through it all, was being talked about. Whether it be good, bad, a debate, a tweet or a meme, LeBron had never faded from conversation.
LeBron is well aware of the platform he is standing firmly on. His popularity reaches past just the basketball world or the sports world at that. He tweets out to 33.7 million followers, sells out club events that he hosts and even got brought out on stage by Drake during his sold out Summer Sixteen Tour.
LeBron is riding this wave, and using the fame he has for the world outside of basketball: politics.
It started when he LeBron James is donated $2.5 million to an exhibit dedicated to Muhammad Ali at the newly opened Smithsonian National Museum of African American History in Washington. Many supported this and thought it was a great idea, while others thought he should put his money towards a better cause. As if he isn’t named one of the most charitable athletes ever, he partnered with the University of Akron to provide a guaranteed four-year scholarship to the school for students in James’ “I Promise” program who qualify. An overall cost? A total of $41.8 million at the school’s current rates.
James who is openly a huge Obama supporter, and a Democrat, became suddenly became socially aware during the final days of the presidential campaigns. James publicly endorsed Hillary Clinton, who could have been the first female president ever, alongside teammate J.R. Smith addressed a Cleveland crowd together in Hilary’s favor just several days before she conceded the election to Donald Trump. It was an urgent call to voters, especially to the city of Ohio, where James is a favourite amongst the whole population. Although it seemed to fail, as Trump took Ohio state by 51.3% of the votes.
And most recently, as the Cavaliers made their last stop in Manhattan, New York on a three-game road trip, ESPN announced that James and a few other teammates will stay at a different hotel than the one the Cavaliers have a contract with: Trump SoHo Hotel. Surprised?
Now, this could be seen as James boycotting Trumps’ enterprise. But James said he was “not trying to make a statement” by declining to stay in Trump hotel, it’s just his “personal preference.”
Does this move make him selfish and spoiled?
Why should LeBron stay out of politics? Why shouldn’t he use his platform to spark a conversation larger than sports? He has the power to kickstart a younger generation who buys his Nike basketball sneakers so they can play like King James and rock his style, to become educated on the importance and how crucial voting is during the election period such as the one that just happened in America.
By boycotting the Trump Hotel, James is not wavering his stance and support when it came to the electoral candidates. By doing this, he demonstrates the strength of forming your own opinion and standing by your beliefs.
So, some may say LeBron should stay far, far away from politics and stick to basketball. But the principle he is setting by using his platform can influence a generation that is so easily influenced by the media.