He has been hailed as ‘King James’ from the moment he burst onto the basketball scene as a teen, and long before Akron’s LeBron James led the hometown Cleveland Cavaliers to their first NBA title he has lived up to that moniker.
Thus when ‘King James’ holds royal court during a media session, all eyes and ears are on him. He’s sports version of EF Hutton, when he speaks people listen.
Monday was no exception when the defending NBA champions began their season with Media Day.
A calm, relaxed James made his way to the podium following head coach Tyronn Lue and GM David Griffin.
Most probably wanted to know what James had in plan for an encore to the first title in Cavs history and the first for the City in more that 50 years, but James relished the opportunity to talk about a subject that most want to forget.
Especially in an environment where the majority of the audience is white media people, but it is these precise moments that define the iconic legacy of LeBron James.
After both Lue and Griffin were both asked a question about the ongoing national protest that has sparked a nationwide debate about police brutality and racial injustice, the reporter fed the question to James.
While James said that he supports San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, he said that he would stand for the national anthem.
“First of all, I’m all in favor of anyone—athlete or non-athlete—being able to express what they believe in in a peaceful manner, and that’s what Colin Kaepernick is doing and I respect that. I think you guys know that when I’m passionate about something, I speak upon it. Me standing for the national anthem is something I will do. That’s who I am. That’s what I believe in. But that doesn’t mean I don’t respect or agree with what Colin Kaepernick is doing” James said.
James added; “You have the right to voice your opinion, stand for your opinion, and he’s doing it in the most peaceful way I’ve ever seen someone do something. What I do not like about the situation is the negative attention that has been thrown upon him from certain people because it’s not deserved. He was very educated, very smart, very candid, and very demanding about what he wanted to do, and he didn’t ask anyone else to join him. He did it in the most peaceful manner I’ve ever seen.”
However James express fear for his son.
“My personal feelings is that I have a 12-year-old son, a 9-year-old son, and a 2-year-old daughter. I look at my oldest son being just four years removed from driving his own car and be able to leave the house on his own. It’s a scary thought right now that if my son were to be pulled over… You tell your kids that if you just [abide] and listen to the police that they will be respectful and things will work itself out. But then you see these videos continue to come out, and it’s a scary-ass situation that if my son calls me, and tells me he’s been pulled over, that I’m not that confident that things are going to go well and he’s going to return home. He just started the sixth grade.”
Elaborating further he said: “We just want the conversation to continue, to keep going. I don’t have the answer—none of us have the answer—but the more times we can talk about it… I’m not up here saying that all police are bad, because they’re not. I’m not up here saying that all kids or adults are great, because they’re not. But at the same time, all lives do matter—it’s not black or white. It’s just tough being a parent right now when you have a pre-teen. But the conversation has continued from the ESPY speech that [we] had, and that’s a good thing.”
The NBA is the most African American dominated sports league in America and James was not the only one who spoke out during the league wide Media Day.
"Some of the things that I've been addressing over this past summer, I think we're still in the same state. I think it's actually getting worse and it will continue to get worse," Knicks All-Star Carmelo Anthony said. "We still have to kind of keep the conversations going."
Anthony was among the highest-profile and most outspoken players following the killing of black men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota in July, joining friends and fellow stars James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul in a powerful opening to the ESPY Awards and continuing to speak out while playing for the U.S. Olympic team.
James, Anthony, NBA MVP Stephen Curry and others said they would continue to stand - as NBA rules stipulate - and hoped players could find meaningful ways to work with their teammates instead of individually.
"Am I going to kneel down and put my fist up? No, I'm not. That's no disrespect to Colin or anybody else that's doing it. But they've gotten the point across," said Draymond Green, Curry's Golden State teammate. "I don't think I need to come out and do a national anthem protest, because it's already started. There's already a conversation. But like I said, is there going to be something done about it?"
Protests over the killing of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte turned violent, with Mayor Jennifer Roberts imposing a curfew. Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside still calls the area home and was troubled by it.
"We've just got to get an understanding of it," Whiteside told the AP. "There's not really one way to fix the problem. It's been going on for a while. People are sick of it."