LeBron James and Black Male Empowerment

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“I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously.” – LeBron James

LeBron James ended two weeks of speculation, faux reporting, and anxiety when he announced he was leaving the Miami Heat, an organization he led to four straight NBA Finals and two NBA Championships, to return home to Akron, Ohio, and play for the Cleveland Cavaliers. As a lifetime Miami Heat I was upset, crushed and devastated, but as an (somewhat) young Africa American male I could not have been happier for LeBron.

African American males are among the most misconstrued individuals in America. We are often labeled as thugs, violent, and criminals. Consider this:

    1. While people of color make up about 30 percent of the United States’ population, they account for 60 percent of those imprisoned.
    2. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime.
    3. Students of color face harsher punishments in school than their white peers, leading to a higher number of youth of color incarcerated.
    4. Once convicted, black offenders receive longer sentences compared to white offenders.
    5. Black and white Americans use marijuana at about the same rate. However, blacks were nearly four times as likely than whites to be arrested on charges of marijuana possession
    6. An African-American male with an associate degree has the same chances of getting a job as a white male with a high school diploma.

James’s life hasn’t been easy. James was born in Akron, Ohio, to a 16 year old mother. His biological father, Anthony McClelland, was an ex-convict who wasn’t present in LeBron’s life, leaving his mother, Gloria, to raise James by herself.  A product of a single parent home, like many African American males, LeBron is an outstanding family man, married with two children and a beautiful wife. He was able to avoid all of the pitfalls presented to African American males and succeed.

LeBron established a new standard for professional basketball players. LeBron, not Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert or basketball czar Pat Riley decided the course of his career. In a profession where owners tend to make all of the final decisions, LeBron has sought to bring the power back to the players. He isn’t afraid of how others may perceive him and he isn’t afraid to take a stand on social issues. LeBron is not only an empowered athlete he’s an empowered African American male, something that’s not too common.

LeBron James is the most polarized athlete in America, you either hate him or love him but you cannot deny his influence. LeBron’s story is what the American Dream is all about. His story is possible only in America and it should give encouragement to all of those not born on third base, who had to experience difficulties growing up, and overcoming seemingly impossible odds. Today’s athletes are constantly in the headlines for the wrong reasons: drunk driving, murder, steroids, cheating, domestic violence, etc., but never LeBron. LeBron’s story is a story of hard-work and redemption that should be appreciated and applauded. LeBron James is a once in a generation transcendent figure. Hate him or love him, you have to respect what he stands for.

 

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