NBA Finals: LeBron locked on social justice messaging

It’s very easy for LeBron James to not get sidetracked by other issues outside of winning a championship for the Los Angeles Lakers, which he came here to do after spending the bulk of his NBA career playing in the Eastern Conference.

In his first season with the Lakers, things were hit and miss for the veteran superstar. In the middle of having a spectacular season, James got injured, missed a good amount of time, and as an indirect result, the Lakers missed out on the postseason.

Of course, that didn’t sit too well with the Laker faithful. Before he carried them to the NBA Finals this year, James had ridden into the championship round nine other times and won three titles (2-Miami Heat; 1-Cleveland Cavaliers) along the way.

So for a fan base that had gone nearly a decade without a title and had been spoiled by their superstars to carry them over the top against other league teams, James’ first season wearing the Purple and Gold uniform turned out to be an unceremonious disappointment.

During a player’s media availability press conference a day prior to Game 5 of the 2020 NBA Finals,  James stated it was a message that he received loud and clear.

LeBron James and Lakers play the Golden State Warriors
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) has been the NBA’s leading voice on social activism regarding the police officer-involved shooting deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. James is pictured here in a regular season game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the New Orleans Pelicans. File Photo/Sammy Saludo for News4usonline

“Well, one, what I’ve learned being a Laker is that the Laker faithful don’t give a damn what you’ve done before,” James said. “Until you become a Laker, you’ve got to do it with them, as well. They don’t care about your resume at all until you become a Laker. Then you’ve got to do it as a Laker, and then they respect you. I’ve learned that.”

It’s ironic that James is making his 10th NBA Finals appearance against the franchise he won two titles for. With his basketball legacy further cemented now that he has brought the Lakers back in basketball glory, James also appears to be more concerned about what he does off the court. His community philanthropy has been well-documented over the years. He has always been a vocal cheerleader in speaking out on social causes.

This summer as the NBA committed to restarting its season in a bubble format in Lake Buena Vista, Florida,  James has been a powerful force in his social justice messaging. With the league’s players and coaches openly advocating against police brutality and systemic racism, James has been at the forefront of that movement, talking openly about the officer-involved killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the shooting of Jacob Blake.

As the season’s winds down to a climactic close, James reflected on the mega platform playing in the NBA bubble has given players and the league.

LeBron James
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) in action against the Utah Jazz on Oct. 25, 2018. James has been vocal on social justice matters including speaking out against the killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd at the hands of police. Photo by Mark Hammond for News4usonline

“We know that being here has given us the strength and the numbers,” James said. “You could take that from the Golden State Warriors: There’s strength in numbers. That’s a byproduct of us being here, of being able to use this platform to be able to talk about everything that’s going on outside of the court. All the social injustice and the voter suppression and so many other things that are just going on, police brutality and so on and so on and so on. Being here and having the opportunity to talk about these issues and continuing to understand that this world is not just about basketball, even though we live in a small piece of the game of basketball.”

James has always been about other things outside of basketball. The LeBron James Family Foundation, The I Promise School, and the civic-minded More Than a Vote, are reflective of James’ charitable efforts. To keep their messages on social issues going, James is hopeful that players don’t stop using their individual platforms now that the season has basically concluded. Staying active and engaged keeps those messages going, he said.

“There are so many bigger things and so many greater things going on,” James said. “If you can make an impact or you can make a change or you can have a vision, it just helps out so much not only in your community but all over the world. Where do we go from here? We don’t stop. Obviously, when the season ends in less than a week, everyone disperses and goes back. But I hope people continue to use their platform. Use their individual social media platforms, if they’re doing it that way, or if you are an individual that goes into your community and does it that
way. However you can continue to create change for the better of all of us, it only makes us all better.”

Whenever and however the NBA Finals reaches its conclusion, you can count on James to drive attention to a social cause that he embraces using his international megaphone. As he and the Lakers stand on the cusp of bringing home the 17th championship for the Los Angeles franchise, James said that everyone must do their part if they want to see change.

“It doesn’t matter what race you are, it doesn’t matter what color you are, no matter how tall or whatever the case may be, because we all want to see better days,” said James. “No matter if you agree or don’t agree with some of the things that are going on, I think we’d all love to see better days and see more love than hate. I know I do my part, as much as I do, on continuing to create change, continuing to educate, continuing to enlighten my community and communities all over the world that listen to me and follow me throughout my journey. Like I said, you control what you can control, and what you can’t, sometimes as much as it hurts, you just try not to worry about it.”

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