LeBron James has never been afraid to speak his mind on anything, whether it pertains to basketball, politics or anything else. James has long been a strong voice in speaking out about social issues, and has also been unafraid to call out the president since Donald Trump took office.
Most recently James said Trump “doesn’t give a f*ck about the people” he’s been put in charge of governing, which caused quite the uproar from many conservative pundits, most notably Laura Ingraham of Fox News. Ingraham said James should “shut up and dribble,” which led to many in the NBA voicing their support of James, from Kevin Durant to Adam Silver.
On Sunday, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who has been plenty vocal himself about Trump over the past two years, also spoke up about the Ingraham-LeBron controversy. Pop made sure to note how incredible it’s been that James, who was a superstar at 18 years old, has managed to avoid the pitfalls that so often catch young stars that are constantly under the microscope as they are still growing as people, and how he’s been a role model and source of inspiration for millions from underserved communities, even comparing James to Black Panther.
“I don’t pick and choose what LeBron should talk about any more than any talking head should pick and choose what he talks about,” Pop said. “To me, when I heard about that it was like an unbelievable show of arrogance for a talking head to try and tell someone else if they can speak, what they can speak about, when and where to do it. It’s just ludicrous. But to not have a feel for who this guy is, and think about when he came into the public view. How young was he? And to this day he hasn’t missed a step, he hasn’t fallen off the ledge. He’s been a brilliant example for millions of kids, especially kids of lesser opportunity who haven’t had the same advantages of others. And they see in this guy somebody that’s consistently exhibited excellence in the workplace. It gives them a voice, lets them know that you can speak about anything. There really is a first amendment. I can have opinions as a coach, as a plumber, as an astrophysicist, as a lowly reporter, I can have whatever opinions I want.
“That’s what’s amazing about this when you look at this guy. How many millions of dollars, tens of millions of dollars he’s given. Tens of millions of kids that are inspired by him. It’s kind of like the Black Panther movie. How cool is that for kids to see that and have that superhero? Well, LeBron’s been that for a long time. For someone to be totally numb to that and attack him in such a childish way really speaks more volumes about that individual than it does LeBron. He’s very, very special. We should all be very proud that we have someone like that who’s willing to speak about a variety of topics.”
It’s no surprise we get this kind of thoughtfulness out of Pop, but it does bring up an important point. LeBron has managed to talk the talk and walk the walk for 15 years as one of the NBA’s best basketball players without so much as a hint of a major controversy about his personal life. That the biggest character flaw most can think of with LeBron is that he did a TV special to announce he was going to Miami that brought in millions for the Boys & Girls Club illustrates that.
The comparison to Black Panther is also interesting. James is one of the great stories of someone coming from poverty to become an all-time great in sports and in doing so has long been a role model to young kids growing up in similar situations as he did. As Black Panther is vitally important for black children to have that kind of representation in a superhero movie, so is LeBron being the kind of role model he’s been as one of the best basketball players of all-time.