Tag: Michael Jordan

LeBron James, Michael Jordan and President Trump’s obsession with influential black male athletes

In a week jam packed with soulful culture, a President squeezed in a jab at the NBA GOATs, and the GOATs won

By Justin Tinsley             August 6, 2018

Exactly 23 minutes before midnight — amid the social media celebration of Barack Obama’s 57th birthday on Aug. 4 – President Donald Trump, as he is prone to do, fired off a tweet that made international headlines. This time he brought into his crosshairs two men who made No. 23 an iconic symbol of dominance: LeBron Jamesand Michael Jordan.

The interview to which 45 is referring is James’ sit-down with CNN’s Don Lemon after the opening of I Promise elementary school in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. Like many other NBA players, Jordan came to James’ defense. “I support LJ,” Jordan said in a statement as short and to the point as the famed 1995 fax that signaled his return to the NBA. “He’s doing an amazing job for his community,” Jordan continued.

The new Los Angeles Lakers superstar had never bitten his tongue on the subject of Trump. “What I’ve noticed over the past few months,” James said, “[is] he’s kinda used sports to kinda divide us, and that’s something that I can’t relate to.” Asked what his response would be if Trump were in front of him, James kept it a hundred: “I would never sit across from him.”

It’s been a soulful cadre of days in culture. Intense. Hours before Trump’s tweet, the day began with the release of a slew of new music. Mac Miller’s Swimming, his first album post-Ariana Grande, is a petri dish of heartbreaking and depressing emotions. The result is an enthralling real-time listen to a man attempting to put his life back together. Enigmatic rhythm and blues starlet H.E.R.’s I Used To Know Her EP dropped, and it’s a fulfilling place holder for her long-anticipated album.

YG’s Stay Dangerous finds him reunited with DJ Mustard for his third studio project. It looks, sounds, feels and even seems to taste like South Central Los Angeles. Whether Dangerous lives up to the exquisiteness of 2014’s My Krazy Life or the brilliance of 2016’s Still Brazy is a discussion best left to time, but Bompton’s own found his new single “Big Bank” in the middle of the newest NFL public relations drama.

Colin Kaepernick’s name was edited out of Big Sean’s verse on Madden NFL 19’s soundtrack. Big Sean quickly took to Twitterdenouncing the move, and YG also pledged his allegiance to Kaepernick. EA Sports quickly apologized, but the damage was done. Especially as Kaepernick’s name had been edited out of last year’s soundtrack as well.

James, the kid from the mud of Akron, is the started-from-the-bottom American success story Trump has fancied as his own, since forever.

The standout project of the weekend is Travis Scott’s ASTROWORLD. Much has changed for the Missouri City, Texas, native since 2016’s standout Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight. The biggest shift being that Scott is now the father of infant daughter Stormi with Forbes cover girl and cosmetics industry mogul Kylie Jenner.

ASTROWORLD, which is projected to be a No. 1 pop album, is blessed with a variety of subjects and ambience. With features from Frank Ocean, Stevie Wonder, Swae Lee, James Blake, Quavo and Takeoff, Pharrell, The Weeknd, Drake, Gunna and 21 Savage, ASTROWORLDhas quickly won rave reviews. James posted a workout videoapproving of Drake’s verse on the magnificently hard-hitting “SICKO MODE.”

I tried to show ’em, yeah / I tried to show ’em, yeah, yeah

Since announcing his candidacy in 2015, Trump has stirred the pot in the world of sports. The Trump/James collision course has been in motion for years, although tensions weren’t always so forthright. Case in point is this June 2003 photo of Trump, Melania Trump and James’ mother, Gloria, at the NBA draft. Or that time in 2010 when Trump tried to coax James to join the New York Knicks. Other interactions, moments and coincidences include:

May 11, 2015 — Trump calls James a “great competitor” after his game-winning 3 in Chicago. It was Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Two years earlier, he referred to James as a “great guy” after James scored Athlete of the Year at The ESPYS. And a year before that, Trump was rooting for James and his Miami Heat.

July 18, 2016 — Nearly a month to the day after James, Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers brought Cleveland its first pro sports title in 52 years, Trump takes his victory lap at the Republican National Convention — also in Cleveland.

Oct. 12, 2016 — James disavows Trump’s “locker room talk” in response to the Entertainment Tonight clip that featured The Apprentice star saying, among other things, “I moved on her like a b—-, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married. … Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything.”

Oct. 2, 2016 — James officially endorses Trump’s political foe Hillary Clinton, saying, “Only one person running truly understands the struggles of an Akron child born into poverty. And when I think about the kinds of policies and ideas the kids in my foundation need from our government, the choice is clear.”

Nov. 6, 2016 — James and then-teammate J.R. Smith appear onstage with Clinton at a Cleveland rally.

Nov. 9, 2016 — James takes to Instagram the morning after Trump’s victory. “Minorities and Women in all please know that this isn’t the end, it’s just a very challenging obstacle that we will overcome!!” he wrote with Kendrick Lamar’s battle cry “Alright” as his soundtrack. “The man above will never put something in our paths that we can’t handle no matter how difficult it may feel/be! To all the youth out there I PROMISE I’ll continue to lead u guys every single day without no hesitation!!” Note the “I Promise” being in all caps also.

Nov. 10, 2016 — The Cavs visit then-President Barack Obama, marking the last time an NBA championship team has visited the White House.

Nov. 11, 2016 — James reluctantly moves forward in a world with Trump as president. “I mean, he’s our president. And no matter if you agree with it or disagree with it, he’s the guy, and we all have to figure out a way that we can make America as great as it can be,” he said. “We all have to figure out a way that we can better our country because we all know that, and we all feel it. This is the best country in the world, so we all have to do our part. It’s not about him at all. Especially not for me, and what I do.”

Dec. 7, 2016James’ decision to boycott the Trump SoHo Hotel impacts Trump’s bottom line.

Sept. 23, 2017 — The “bum” tweet heard ’round the world (and among the year’s most retweeted):

July 30 — James sits down with Don Lemon for CNN interview.

In short, James, the kid from the mud of Akron, is the started-from-the-bottom American success story that Trump has fancied as his own, since forever. And Trump’s recent tweet is evidence of James’ point about the president using sports as a divisive tactic, and as a way to skirt around issues at hand by igniting a smoke screen — this administration’s version of James’ vaunted chase-down block. And Trump really did bring Jordan into it. It felt like he couldn’t resist. Since James became a teenage celebrity shortly after the turn of the century, he and Jordan have been kindred spirits. The widely accepted greatest of all time and the supernatural kid from Ohio who might overtake the man he grew up idolizing.

And as James’ résumé has ballooned into the one-of-one spreadsheet it is, the Jordan/James debate has only intensified, and Trump’s tweet placed Jordan in an awkward position. He is a basketball god, a man whose on-court legacy needs no security detail. But among the differences in the legacies of these two titans is James’ willingness to use his platforms as spaces of change while still the league’s top dog. Among Jordan’s core commitments, as with James, is education in underserved black communities, but Jordan’s more-than-an-athlete life is often and unfairly summed up in an unsubstantiated quoteabout Republicans and sneakers.Asked what his response would be if Trump were in front of him, James kept it a hundred: “I would never sit across from him.”

During Muhammad Ali’s exile, The Champ battled the government. And so this current moment is unprecedented. Never before has a sitting president and an athlete of James’ caliber been so publicly at odds. Trump’s failed divide-and-conquer tactics do, however, make for a fascinating possibility — Jordan and James joining forces somehow.

What if, despite an ongoing, unsolvable NBA debate with them at the epicenter, their names become linked not just at the bar or barbershop in Who Is The Best Athlete arguments but also among those who most changed the world for the better? Imagine if they became teammates, after all.

LeBron, Magic Johnson and black power in Los Angeles

By Martenzie Johnson

There has never been this magnitude of black power and control between a player and team executive in professional basketball

On July 1, LeBron James, the most highly regarded professional athlete since Michael Jordan 20 years ago, signed a four-year, $153.3 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. The son of Akron, Ohio, packed his bags for the second time in eight years to not only leave behind a Cleveland Cavaliers franchise that is a glorified junior varsity outfit without him but also eschewed contenders in Houston and Philadelphia to sign up for the Big Baller circus in Tinseltown.

The move, announced nonchalantly through his agency rather than an elaborate television special or as-told-to magazine feature, is just the latest example of James recognizing and wielding the rare power a black athlete has earned outside of the greatest of all time himself, Jordan, and James’ new boss, Earvin “Magic” Johnson.

James, 33, has lived up to the hype and unfair expectations leveled at him by cynics and naysayers since Sports Illustrated, in 2002, decided to put a high school junior on its cover. He was “overhyped,” yet he won four NBA MVP awards in five seasons and should have won more. He couldn’t make it to the Finals, yet went eight straight times. He couldn’t win the big one, yet did it three times.

James has maintained a statesmanlike demeanor in the face of the detractors, even when there’s a touch of racial undertones. There was the meandering Fox News host who told him to “shut up and dribble” because she didn’t like the cut of his jib. Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, writing in Comic Sans font like a schoolchild, treated James’ 2010 departure to the Miami Heat like an overseer reacting to the Emancipation Proclamation. In 2017, an unidentified person or persons scrawled the N-word on the front gate of one of James’ homes in Los Angeles.

And unlike his transcendent contemporaries O.J. Simpson, Tiger Woods and the pre-retirement versions of Jordan and Kobe Bryant, James has been unafraid to crash headfirst into the topics of race and politics. At the 2016 ESPYS he urged all athletes to “speak up” and use their platforms to invoke change. He later campaigned for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and called the president a bum. Commenting on his vandalized home, James expanded on Kanye West’s not-safe-for-publication lines about black acceptance in white America: “No matter how much money you have, how famous you are, how much people admire you, being black in America is tough.”

But through it all, he’s broken records, won awards and achieved personal milestones to rival Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt. James’ superstar status has eclipsed that of his peers, affording him the opportunity to branch out into other lucrative endeavors.

He owns Blaze Pizza, the “fastest-growing restaurant” in America, and is a part-owner of Premier League club Liverpool, an investment that has quintupled since 2011, and is the most in-demand active athlete in Hollywood outside of professional wrestler John Cena. Oh, and James signed a lifetime deal with Nike that, based on the gesture of his business manager’s finger, is believed to be for more than a billion dollars. James is the “business, man” who Jay-Z rapped about 13 years ago.

He even moves markets all by himself: After he left the Cavaliers in the summer of 2010, the team lost more than $120 million in value. After four seasons in South Beach, the Heat’s value vaulted from $364 million to $770 million. Free agency in the NBA practically comes to a halt when James decides to switch ZIP codes.

It’s no surprise, then, that the man who funneled James to Los Angeles is someone who matches his professional and business acumen. Johnson, the Hall of Famer and renowned businessman, was the lone NBA executive granted a face-to-face sit-down with James during the offseason, which, according to recent reports, was due to James viewing Johnson as a partner rather than as Johnson’s subordinate.

Johnson, one of just three black presidents of basketball operations in the league, is no stranger to power moves on and off the court. Even before ending a 13-year career in 1996 — a career that included 12 All-Star appearances, three MVP awards and five NBA titles — Johnson was flexing his business skills. In the early 1990s, Johnson bought a Pepsi bottling company in the Washington, D.C., area, at the time the largest minority-operated Pepsi franchise in America, and a Los Angeles shopping center. By the new millennium, Johnson owned and franchised fitness centers, Starbucks franchises (he sold 105 locations back to the company in 2010) and movie multiplexes in California, Ohio, Texas, Georgia and Maryland. The star of the short-lived Magic Hour talk show was also a part-owner of the Lakers for 16 years and has been a part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers since 2012.

In the history of professional basketball, there has never been this magnitude of black power and control between a player and team executive. Michael Jordan is the quintessential superstar but worked under Jerry Krause through the Chicago Bulls’ championship reign. Any other stars of the past (Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Bill Russell) were never as transcendent as Jordan and James, and they never played under a black executive like Johnson.

The partnership of LeBron and Magic may not lead to many, or any, NBA championships (the Lakers are not currently contenders with James and “the kids,” and the Golden State Warriors are still a thing), but their mere existence is a powerful, utopian example of black capitalism and economic self-sufficiency. Both men went from growing up poor — James in Akron and Johnson in Lansing, Michigan — to essentially running the entire NBA. There are only three NBA players who could claim such an accomplishment.

One is in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The other two are now in Los Angeles.