The Cleveland Cavaliers had just defeated the Toronto Raptors in game two of their Eastern Conference Semifinal match-up, but the most socially responsible athlete since Muhammad Ali tackled the most sensitive topic in America. Race!
The questions pierced those endless volleys about the game James had just played and brought an eerie silence among the massive what press crops who frequently have the best access to athletes such as James.
I was the more concerned with what James thought about the Adams Jones situation when a Boston Red Sox fan hurled the N- word at him and threw a bag of peanuts at him for good measure.
Jones, an all star major leaguer, handled the insults with the dignity of Jackie Robinson. Jones is one of just 59 Blacks on a major league roster as we went to print.
He is just one of two on his own team. The team he was playing against that creature the controversy had three Black players.
James gave a thoughtful response when I asked him about Adam Jones and how to eliminate racism.
“What must be done to eradicate racism from our society?”
“It’s a delicate situation. Racism, we know, exists. You try not to put yourself in a position, for me as a father, I try to give my kids the blueprint on how life is gonna be. But at the end of the day, I can only tell them so much, and they have to live it themselves. For me, I just try to be respectful, for one, respectful to others, and I feel like if you do that consistently, then I believe the karma will come back to you.
“With the Adam Jones situation, I don’t know who said it or what happened, the whole community in Boston, whatever the case may be, and I’ve heard a couple athletes say that you expect that when you go to Boston. For me, I’ve been to Boston and I’ve played in Boston a lot, I just try to have tunnel vision when I play. I can’t recall ever hearing something that was racism towards me, but I think it was great that the other guys spoke up for him, not even on his own team, the guys from the Red Sox spoke up for Adam Jones saying like, ‘Hey guys, this is a situation where you guys need to have a standing ovation. Please do that.’
“It’s not great for sports. It’s not great for society. You got guys like Martin Luther King, who all he talked about was trying to unite all of us — no matter the color, no matter the race, no matter the shape or size.”
“Racism is gonna be a part of time forever, I believe, but I think for us, the people that have the opportunities to have a voice and people that have an opportunity to have some play on the youth that’s coming up, we have to lead them the best way we can, and we have to live with the results, so hopefully I was able to answer your question. It’s a real, real longer conversation, but if we can keep the conversation going, I think it helps.”
Those before him such as Ali, Jim Brown, Bill Russell, Arthur Ashe, Tommie Smith and John Carlos when their raised fists in the black power salute at the '68 Olympics shocked the world, LeBron James has steadfastly remained unapologetically Black.
That is what has spearheaded LeBron James into a unique cultural figure that transcends sports and American sports history.