INDEPENDENCE (92.3 The Fan) – LeBron James has never forgotten where he grew up, the impact he has off the court or the responsibility that comes with being the premiere athlete in his sport.
Aside from winning games and trying to win championships, James has been driven to make a difference whether it is building a school for kids in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, providing them a path for college scholarships or speaking out against social injustice.
Monday morning as the Cavs prepared to face the Golden State Warriors on Martin Luther King Jr. day, James once again used his platform to speak out on racism and social injustice.
“I think it’s unbelievable what the NBA has done. To be able to have this many games, a lot of great games today, on such a great day, for a man who stood for more than himself,” James said. “You always hear people saying, ‘risking their life.’ He actually gave up his life for the betterment of all of us to be able to live in a free world and for us to be able to have a voice, for us to go out and be free no matter your skin color, no matter who you are, no matter the height and size and the weight or whatever the case may be, wherever you are, he had a vision and he took a bullet for all of us. Literally. In the rawest for that you could say that. He literally took a bullet for us. And for us to stand here even though we’re trying to be [divided] right now by somebody, today is a great day for people to realize how America was built and how we all have to stand united in order to be at one. Especially as Americans because we believe, we all know and we all believe, this is the greatest country in the world.”
James was asked what he thought Dr. King would think of his efforts if he were still alive today.
“Well I hope I could make him proud or made him proud,” James said. “Just taking what he was able to give to us and give us that type of empowerment, give us that type of strength to be able to go out and talk about things that really matter. Be able to live for something that’s more than you as an individual. So hopefully I would be one of those guys that made him proud. Hopefully, I’m making him proud still with him looking down on us.”
James remains moved to this day after a visit to the site where Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, which is now the National Civil Rights museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.
“It was a very eerie and powerful impact,” James said. “To be able to be there at that hotel, at that site, where he was assassinated was a very eerie feeling and a very powerful feeling at the same time to be able to grace a part of the movement, be a part of the movement. You kind of felt that, so. I’m looking forward to the opportunity where I can take my kids there and they can completely understand what they’re actually witnessing.”
James is expected to wear a special edition of the LeBron 15’s Monday night against the Warriors. On the outside of the mid-sole on the shoe “07 13 2016” is inscribed in thin gold print – the date of speech he gave at the ESPY’s along with Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade in which they called on fellow athletes to use their money and voice to better their communities, uplift those in need and speak out against social injustice.
“The best thing that we wanted to do when we went up there was continue the conversation. We wanted to keep the conversation going and two years later the conversation is still going,” James said. “We wanted to, at that point in time knowing what was going on in America at that point in time and seeing the things that was going on, we wanted to enlighten our fellow athletes. It’s the biggest night in the world for us as athletes, all come together. And we wanted to share our insight on what we felt was going on and what we felt like we could do to help. And the most important thing for us to try to continue the conversation about the state of us as Americans and us going forward.
“Obviously, we are in a difficult state right now as Americans as well with the leader of our country. But us, like I said, no matter the religion, no matter the shapes and sizes, we all have to continue to come together and shine a brighter light on, you know, I mean, [I don’t want to] use the word stupidity, but that’s basically what it comes down to. And because we’ve built such an incredible country and for us to be able to live free lives and be able to work and work together, no matter the color of skin tone or things of that nature. Or religion. And we have to continue that and that date, two years ago, and I put it on my shoes because it always reminds me of our conversation. The conversation of how to continue to keep people involved, people starting from their communities all the way to other communities that they can. And giving the youth an opportunity to be as creative and as aware as they can be.”
As James reflected on that ESPYs speech Monday, he isn’t frustrated that the fight against racism and for equality continues. He’s encouraged that it lives on.
“The state of racism will never die, but what we cannot do is allow it to conquer us as people. We can’t allow it to divide us,” James said. “The guy in control has given people and racism, and negative racism, an opportunity to be out and outspoken without fear. And that’s the fearful thing for us because it’s with you, and it’s around every day, but he’s allowed people to come out and just feel confident about doing negative things. Like I said, we can’t allow that to stop us from continuing to be together and preach the right word of livin’ and lovin’ and laughin’ and things of that nature. Because would we want to live anywhere else? I don’t think so. We love this place.”