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LeBron James is more than the GOAT. He’s the anti-Trump

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James leads the voting rights group More Than a Vote, which has signed up thousands of volunteer poll workers.

(CNN)LeBron James’ latest triumph is a victory not only for athletes but also for freedom-loving people everywhere.

Sunday night, the Los Angeles Lakers won their 17th NBA championship, led by the virtuoso James, who was named the series MVP for the fourth time. For those counting, this represents James’ fourth ring, with three different teams — a first in NBA history.
James’ fourth championship now places him in the pantheon of the sport alongside the likes of Michael Jordan, considered by many to be the greatest basketball player of all time. While Jordan, during his own playing heyday, famously eschewed getting political, James has confidently taken up the struggle for Black dignity and citizenship, emerging as the athletic superstar that America might not deserve but so desperately needs.
 
His rise as a force for social justice marks a generational passing of the torch of sorts from other towering players such a Bill Russell, who fiercely championed civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, whose Muslim faith and name change (he was born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr.) made him a Black Power era icon in the late 1960s and early 1970s, one who helped pave the way for contemporary players.
But to fully appreciate what makes James’ virtuosity historic, it is also important to remember that this year’s NBA Finals almost didn’t happen — and why.
On August 26, the Milwaukee Bucks boycotted a scheduled playoff game in protest against the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin and racial injustice that had received increasing attention after the killing of George Floyd. This action inspired a league-wide boycott (as well as stoppages by teams in other professional sports) and players debated whether the playoffs should continue.
James, the NBA’s biggest star and among the most outspoken and eloquent athletes of his generation on matters of racial justice and equity, helped to forge a compromise. Playoffs would continue, players would be allowed to wear T-shirts and emblems expressing their support for Black Lives Matter and social justice causes and the league would donate money to social justice organizations and turn NBA arenas into polling places for the upcoming election.
 
James’ outspoken words in support of social justice are connected to important deeds, including leading an effort to attract more than 10,000 volunteers to serve as poll workers in November.
James cared about Black lives before it became popular, wearing a hoodie to memorialize Trayvon Martin and sporting “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts after Eric Garner’s death. While Colin Kaepernick will be forever remembered for sacrificing his NFL career by peacefully kneeling during the National Anthem, LeBron James deserves America’s gratitude and respect for risking his endorsements and reputation to support the — at the time — controversial idea that Black Lives Matter.
On the court, partnered with his most talented ever teammate in Anthony Davis, James has been absolutely brilliant. At 35 years old, having completed his 17th season after coming to the NBA straight from high school, James is in perhaps the best shape of his life. His leadership and on court exuberance, which gave him the nickname “King James” as a teenager, have become more apparent with each passing year.