By Kenneth Miller, Publisher
After eclipsing Kareem Abdul Jabbar to become the NBA’s all-time leading scoring on Feb. 7 at Crypto.com Arena in downtown Los Angeles, Lebron James appeared at the post game presser sporting a dapper jet black suit with open collar matching shirt before answering a volley of questions from the mostly white scribes, reflecting on his most improbable journey of just a kid from Akron to the greatest scorer of all time.
Jabbar stood as the scoring leader for 38 years, or for as long as James has been alive and it had been considered among the milestones in sports history least likely to be broken.
However, that was before “The Chosen 1” or as he’s referred to now “The King” was born in Akron, Ohio, just 40 miles outside Cleveland to a teen aged mother on welfare mired in the grip urban poverty.
LeBron James or those who grow up like him have a higher probability of joining a gang, being addicted to drugs or suffering the fate of police brutality than they do of just making it out of the ghetto. Reaching the heights that LeBron James has is a miracle.
Scoring 38,390 points to pass Jabbar and become the all-time NBA scoring leader is a monumental achievement that will only enhance James’ legacy as mega star athlete, but most impressive is what LeBron James represents to his culture and the Black community away from basketball.
During a week when two Black quarterbacks will face off in the Super Bowl for the first time in history, James’ feat offers more hope of Blackness being embraced and celebrated instead of distanced and vilified.
Most Black professional athletes who hit the lottery ticket through their athletic prowess not only forget where they came from, but who they are.
Another Northeast Ohio native legendary boxing promoter Don King says you give them a million dollars and they act as if they graduated from Harvard although they don’t even know where it is.
In other words, Blacks feel as though their economic status affords them the permission to be white.
The stance that James has taken is just the opposite. James’ family and friends from Akron, Ohio, were in attendance, including some high school teammates from St. Vincent- St. Mary, but he quipped that he wanted to break the record so they would not miss their red eye flights and he’d have to foot the bill for another night at the hotel.
Not surprising, a dignified James was most respectful to the man he passed although Abdul-Jabbar criticized James, saying he had a greater responsibility in how he conducts himself given his elevated platform last year.
“Some of the things he’s done and said are really beneath him, as far as I can see,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “Some of the great things that he’s done, he’s standing on both sides of the fence almost, you know? It makes it hard for me to accept that when he’s committed himself to a different take on everything. It’s hard to figure out where he’s standing. You’ve got to check him out every time.”
After the historical moment, Abdul-Jabbar passed James a ceremonial ball celebrating the new scoring leader, but relationships is not something that Jabbar has managed to harness with other Laker greats as well.
“I just want to say, thank you to the Laker faithful. You guys are one of a kind,” James said. “To be able to be in the presence of such a legend as great as Kareem, it’s very humbling. Please give a standing ovation to the Captain, please.”
This is the same Laker nation that was reluctant to accept him because of their love affair with Kobe Bryant, smearing one of his murals with graffiti and castigating him at every turn.
James is blessed with the humility of Barack Obama. A four time NBA champion and MVP, whose greatest asset is his mind, something that I alluded to quite often when I lived in Cleveland and was covering the Cavaliers.
The acumen he had to study the history of the game and its iconic legends, but then respectfully charting his own course highlight that brilliance.
“But I didn’t want to emulate nobody. I wanted to be myself. And if you stay true to yourself, you’ll always feel better about the outcome, win, lose or draw in life. But it’s been great. I’m not going nowhere,” James said.
Now a billionaire with index that includes movies, documentaries and other signature series, but the greatest title that he carries today is that of husband, father and son.
He expressed how important it is for his sons to see how he treats their mother, their younger sister and their grandmother.
Bronny, his namesake is a senior at Sierra Canyon and has been selected to play in the prestigious McDonalds All American Game, just like his father did.
The “I Promise School” in Akron, his name on St. Vincent-St. Mary basketball gymnasium, a life time contract with Nike, a sports agency influenced by him and repped by his childhood friend Rich Paul are just a few more nuggets.
Graceland gave white America Elvis.
Akron gave Black America LeBron.
We Got Our King!!!!