Smith: “Shut up, LeBron”:

More than just a kid from Akron

Kevin Smith, Opinion Editor

The responsibility of politics and real world problems has always been a conundrum for those who have found themselves in the limelight. On one end of the spectrum, people believe that celebrities should keep their opinions to themselves for the most part. They don’t believe that these celebrities are in touch with reality and the common population, and for good reason. After all, who would think that Tom Cruise could empathize with blue-collar workers struggling with work? In fact, many are telling celebrities to shove their opinions, well, elsewhere, to put it kindly.

On the other hand, many see celebrities as a medium to get their message across. Some see what celebrities say as representative of their current situation. Meryl Streep, Mark Hamill and Robert De Niro are a few of the many to take shots at Donald Trump. Aziz Ansari opened Saturday Night Live with witty commentary about the new emboldened wave of racists stemming from the far right spectrum of politics.

However, the most outspoken celebrity is not necessarily the best actor or comedian, but the best basketball player on the planet: LeBron James.

A kid from Akron, Ohio, who overcame an unstable home environment and poverty. Does anyone want to tell him that he didn’t come from reality? It’s a reality that is too real for a lot of African-Americans, including myself.

LeBron is many things to many people. To us Clevelanders, he is the chosen one who ended the 52 years of championship purgatory by putting forth a Herculean effort to bring a title to The Land.

Now that LeBron’s ultimate goal is completed, spectators and sports analysts did not know what to expect from him. Some expected LeBron to relax, as he would be playing without the pressure of winning for the first time. Those predictions would be squashed within the first half of the NBA season.

This past week, LeBron voiced his frustration with the current makeup of the roster, which features impressive talent, but is hindered by injury.

I’ll be 33 in the winter, and I ain’t got time to waste,” LeBron said.

There have been few players in NBA history who have been so vocal with management to the press, and there may not be another player in history who understands their value to the team than LeBron. He understands that he is worth exponentially more than what the Cleveland Cavaliers, or any team in the NBA, could potentially pay him.

Critics see LeBron as someone who whines or is manipulative, but his basketball talent is to a point where the Cavs cannot pay him what he truly is worth. He signed short contracts that would allow him the freedom to leave, along with inducing anxiety among management if they become stagnant. He uses it as leverage to have a stake in the team and its development, something that most NBA players could only dream of. He is a star with nearly the power of an owner, all the while refusing to simply be another basketball player.

Cleveland thrives off of his presence. Upon his return in 2014, Bloomberg estimated that LeBron would bring in nearly $215 million to the Cleveland economy, while he only signed a $21 million per year contract.

In his own hometown, LeBron partnered with the University of Akron to bring college education to about 1,000 underprivileged students who attend the city’s schools.

However, the conflict arises the most when LeBron enters the political arena.

In 2014, LeBron and several teammates wore “I Can’t Breathe” shirts to bring attention to policy brutality, specifically the death of unarmed Eric Garner at the hands of police in New York City.

Although he declined to comment about the death of 12 year-old Tamir Rice, LeBron offered his own personal take on police brutality.

“My personal feelings is that I got a 12-year-old son, a 9-year-old son [and] a 2-year-old daughter, and I look at my son being four years removed from being able to drive his own car, being able to leave the house on his own,” James said. “It’s a scary thought right now to think, if my son gets pulled over, and you tell your kids, if you just comply, if you just listen to the police, that they’ll be respectful and things will work itself out.”
He has now made enemies, not in the Golden State, but specifically in the far right. Breitbart News Network commented on his vocal position, writing that “LeBron James’ transition from owner of one of the best stories in sports history to becoming one of the most thoroughly unlikeable celebrities in America is nearly complete.” Many of the article’s readers agreed with the sentiment that LeBron is rich because of “white people.” Not because of his own talents, his business acumen, his investment strategy or his own intellect. (Warren Buffet has praised his investments.)

To further right-wing dismay, James was a vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential Election. His disapproval of Trump comes complete with referring to the president as “that guy” while criticizing him for his “locker room talk,” refusing to stay in Trump hotels and sharing memes comparing the president’s inauguration speech to Bane’s speech in The Dark Knight Rises.

LeBron’s story from rags to riches cannot be discredited simply because he is testing his voice in politics. He understands his value as a basketball player, as a businessman and as a possible political figure, and that frightens a lot of people. And he knows it.

LeBron isn’t just a basketball player anymore. His influence reaches beyond the game. He is evolving into someone who can do much more, and it has been wonderful to see. As another kid from Northeast Ohio, it’s nice to see one of us doing so much for the region.

Bron-Bron for President in 2020?