The Los Angeles Lakers have one of the more promising rookie classes in the entire NBA, somehow managing to snag Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and Thomas Bryant in one fell swoop during one of the most talent-laden drafts in recent history.
Those four are part of the newest generation of NBA talent, a group that has been empowered by the current political climate and a changing league to be more vocal about social and political issues they feel strongly about.
The day before Martin Luther King Jr. Day as the Lakers toured the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Hart told Dan Woike of the L.A. Times that the catalyst for NBA athletes being able to vocalize their opinions on such matters was LeBron James:
“He wasn’t at first when he was younger, but now he’s a lot more vocal,” Hart said. “He’s the best player in the world and him being that vocal, he’s a role model.”
Some will see a young Laker talking about James and immediately use it to fuel the speculation connecting the two parties in free agency this summer, but this is bigger than those types of rumors.
The Lakers’ young core are part of the first generation of professional athletes to grow up and be molded by a world in which professional athletes are often encouraged to speak out on political issues rather than being shunned for it.
From his outspoken support for Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy to his protesting the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012, James has in part led the charge for a world in which athletes can speak their mind.
The Lakers looking up to him doesn’t mean he’ll join the team as a free agent this summer, but it does mean that James has had an effect on the team regardless and might have helped grow its young players into more well-rounded and socially aware individuals.
Just the types of high-character players the current front office continues to say they’re chasing to fill out their roster.
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