The NBA could not have asked for a better ambassador of the game than LeBron James as he has played a massive role in making the league one of the most popular entities across the globe.
Since becoming the No. 1 pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, James has turned himself into one of the most famous and popular basketball players in the world and his contributions both on and off the court have been well-documented and praised throughout his career.
Even in the latter stages of his career, James has continued to play at a high level and has restored the Lakers back to relevancy as they have established themselves as one of the few championship contenders during the 2019-20 NBA season.
At 35 years old, James has also become more of an advocate and mentor for the new generation of players and he discussed his postgame message to Zion Williamson after the team’s win against the New Orleans Pelicans, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“It’s my obligation, it’s my job to continue to pass on the game to the guys that come in after me. That’s just my responsibility. No one told me to do that, I just feel like it’s my responsibility to leave the game in a better place than when I had it. And when you see the class of guys that’s in our league right now. I mentioned Ja last night, you mention Zion tonight, you see Trae Young, you see Luka Doncic, you see Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, you just see all these guys, these young guys… the league is in a very good place.
And if I’m able to give my wisdom and game when I’m playing or after I’m playing, I feel like it’s my job cause the game has just given me so much since I was eight years old, so it’s my responsibility. And anybody that says that ‘LeBron, why would he do that? Why’s he playin’? It’s a show and sign of weakness. He’s buddy-buddy with the guys that he’s going against,’ tell him to kiss my [expletive]. With a smile too.”
This kind of statement from James is a clear sign that he takes his role as an elder statesman seriously and that he truly does care about the future of basketball. The young All-Star players he mentioned have proven to be the next faces of the NBA and he has taken it upon himself to make sure they are successful going forward.
Despite that, James still rules over the current landscape and also seems intent on bringing a championship back to Los Angeles. He may need to go through some of the players he mentioned to get there, but it should be something he and the Lakers can do.