On Wednesday morning, reports surfaced that LeBron James’s Los Angeles home was vandalized with a racial slur spray-painted on its gate. Amid a bevy of covfefe memes and the latest lists and predictions, it felt like the news got shuffled under the carpet of the day’s usual cycle, which given LeBron’s prominence and the severity of the act committed against his property, was slightly surprising.
On Wednesday afternoon, LeBron stepped up to the podium and responded.
James could have responded with anger. He could have not responded publicly at all, and nobody would have held it against him. Instead, he took a terrible thing and turned it into an opportunity to talk about the past, and the present state of race in America.
"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 — it’s tough. And we’ve got a long way to go for us as a society, and for us as African Americans, until we feel equal in America."
LeBron’s has a robust history of addressing sociopolitical issues and race relations. In 2012, he and the rest of the Miami Heat posed in hoodies in solidarity with Trayvon Martin, a black Florida teenager who was fatally shot by an older white man.
In 2014, he spoke out against Donald Sterling as tapes of Sterling making racist remarks were released. Later that year, after returning to Cleveland, he and other Cavs players wore "I Can’t Breathe" T-shirts in tribute to Eric Garner, who died after being put in a choke hold by a police officer. After a child was shot in Cleveland in 2015, LeBron called for tougher gun regulations. Last year, he spoke out following the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile in police-related incidents.
That LeBron can dominate a sport so completely, yet effectively remind us that sports are largely meaningless in the grand scheme of things speaks to his character and perspective. He is considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time, but he has the courage to put sports to the side "on the eve of one of the greatest sporting events" and denounce what happened to his home, using it as an opening to talk about the real problem. He’s not here to confirm what we know already know — that what those people did to his home is wrong. He went beyond that, embracing his stature and platform.
We began the week talking about the needless and eternal debate over LeBron James and Michael Jordan, a discussion rooted in legacy and greatness measured on the basketball court alone. As we prep for Game 1 of the Finals, we’ll see LeBron, the person, whose off-the-court role of outspoken activist may be a far more important legacy to remember him by.