Lakers News: LeBron James Names Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Among Inspirations
LeBron James, Lakers
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Lakers All-Star LeBron James’ standing among the greatest players in NBA history has always been up for debate among fans and analysts alike. But when it comes to what LeBron does off the court, no one questions his greatness and what he has accomplished in the community.

Not only has James done amazing things such as opening up a charter school, but he has regularly been willing to address any injustices he sees. At a time when athletes are a brand in and of themselves, and saying the wrong thing threatens to alienate some and potentially cost a player millions of dollars, James has bucked the trend and been vocal about any social issues regardless of how controversial they may be.

Most recently, he has worked with other athletes and celebrities to form a voting rights group, aimed at protecting those rights of African-Americans, long an issue for black people in America.

His constant work on issues pertaining to African-Americans has drawn comparisons to outspoken athletes of the past, and in an interview with Jonathan Martin of the New York Times, LeBron listed the likes of Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as inspirations for his actions today:

“I’m inspired by the likes of Muhammad Ali, I’m inspired by the Bill Russells and the Kareem Abdul-Jabbars, the Oscar Robertsons — those guys who stood when the times were even way worse than they are today,” Mr. James said. “Hopefully, someday down the line, people will recognize me not only for the way I approached the game of basketball, but the way I approached life as an African-American man.”

During the times of Ali, Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Russell, the challenges facing black athletes were far different than what they are now. Speaking up about injustices in the 1960s and ’70s, athletes faced far more than just mean comments on social media. They and their families lives could be put into danger with the responses some would have towards those kinds of statements.

James has taken that torch in this day and age, being outspoken about any and everything he deems necessary, even going so far as to speak out against the President of the United States on certain issues. Many athletes let issues pass for the sake of ensuring their money, but James is on the other end of that spectrum.

Sometimes issues transcend all of sports and affect lives outside of the court or field of play. When those things have happened, LeBron James has been one of the first voices to be heard and that is something he took from the greats before him.

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