Black History Month: LeBron James

Hayden Audette, contributor

LeBron James is one of the most influential athletes of all time and is considered by many to be the greatest NBA player ever. A few of his accolades include four NBA championships, four Most Valuable Player awards, and 18 All-Star nominations. James also recently passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most points in NBA history over the regular-season and playoffs. Besides James’ tremendous impact on the basketball floor, he also has a tremendous impact off of the court. He has been very involved in social justice activism and has also given back to his hometown of Akron, Ohio through generous charitable donations. 

James’ NBA career began with the Cleveland Cavaliers (Cavs) in 2003, and he made an immediate impact on the league, winning Rookie of the Year. In only his fourth season, he led the Cavs to the NBA Finals, where they ended up being swept by the Spurs. James ended up leaving Cleveland for Miami in 2010, and that move ended up paying off for him, as he won back-to-back NBA Finals with the Heat in 2012 and 2013. After that, he decided to move back to Cleveland to try to help his hometown Cavs win a title. This began a period of four consecutive NBA Finals matchups between the Cavs and the Golden State Warriors. 

In 2015, the Warriors won the title in 6 games, but they were denied a chance to repeat in 2016. The Warriors went into the playoffs with a regular-season record of 73-9, the best record by any team in NBA history. It appeared that the Warriors would end that historic season with a championship, as they took a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals against James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavaliers then went on to win the next three games and win the series 4-3. After two more Cavs-Warriors series that went Golden State’s way, James decided to join the LA Lakers, and he ended up winning a title with them in 2020, in six games over his former Heat team. James has been named Finals MVP in all four of the Finals that he has won up to this point. 

Even after four NBA titles, James has said that his proudest accomplishment isn’t something that he has done on the court. In 2017, he opened a school in Akron, Ohio called the I Promise School, with the goal of helping inner-city kids in his hometown. LeBron has said to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin “… championships, MVPs, I mean points, rebounds, and assists, that stuff is whatever” in reference to how proud he was of opening the school. For one of the greatest athletes ever to say that his biggest accomplishment was something that he didn’t accomplish in his sport says a lot about the type of person that James is. 

Beyond opening the school, James has also been vocal about issues affecting African Americans, using his platform to call attention to the problem of police brutality after the murder of George Floyd in 2020. All of his accomplishments in basketball are impressive, but it is even more admirable that he has decided to use his influence as an athlete to call attention to things much more important than sports.