LeBron James is probably the most recognizable athlete in the world. He created a major buzz this summer when he decided to go to the Lakers via free agency. Although the move had been speculated for quite some time, it still created a massive shockwave throughout the sports world. Even though he has only been in LA since July, James is already making a huge impact in the city of Angels. While that was expected, what’s surprising is where he’s leaving his mark. Here’s a hint, it’s not on the basketball court.
LeBron has been quite busy in Hollywood. He has launched “The Shop” with HBO, done some voice over acting in the upcoming film “Smallfoot” and has teamed up with Arian Foster for his series documentary “Becoming Bobby Feeno”. His most impactful work however is yet to come. James has several culturally significant projects in the works or already done.
LeBron is working with former Duke standout, Jay Williams, on a series called “Best Shot’. The show follows Williams as he mentors an inner city high school basketball team and guides them through the rigors of being a student athlete. The show gives an in-depth glimpse into the struggles many urban kids face that most people never encounter on a personal level. I don’t think James and business partner, Maverick Carter, picked Williams for this project by accident. The show is centered around Central High School in Newark, NJ which is about 20 mins from Williams’ hometown. And he can definitely give advice on facing adversity and navigating your way through hardship. Williams’ promising NBA career was cut tragically short by a motorcycle accident after his rookie season. Afterwards, Williams suffered from depression and addiction to painkillers during his recovery period and comeback attempts. He persevered through his situation and now spends his time doing charity work through his organization, Rising Stars, when he’s not doing his duties as an analyst for ESPN. Williams spoke extensively with SB Nation about his experience doing the show and how his relationship with Carter and James led to him being a part of it.
James has also partnered with STARZ (who he previously worked with on his series Survivor’s Remorse) and Luther Campbell on a show called “Warriors of Liberty City”. The show follows Uncle Luke’s youth football program through a six part docu-series which shows what life is like for the kids in Liberty City, a crime infested community in Miami. Despite the many possible pitfalls of their environment, Liberty City is a breeding ground for NFL talent. Campbell has been helping the young people in his hometown for the past 30 years through his football program. His philanthropy and positive work in the community was conveniently neglected when the government was focusing on trying to end his music career due to the extremely graphic and explicit lyrics by his group, 2 Live Crew. James and Springhill Ent. are definitely bringing these types of shows to the forefront and making sure that these stories are being told from the perspective of the only people that could tell them properly.
But perhaps LeBron’s most notable and influential work is yet to come. James will be partnering with Showtime on a three part documentary called “Shut Up and Dribble”. The title comes from an insult directed towards James by journalist Laura Ingraham when he offered his unfavorable opinion of Donald Trump. This project has a two fold mission as well as he has been vocal about his intent to combat the inequalities Black women face in our society. He has tapped former ESPN host Jemele Hill to narrate the project. Hill was reprimanded by ESPN last September for violating the company’s social media policy by posting some disparaging tweets about Donald Trump, calling him a white supremacist. Hill received some backlash for her tweets and ESPN stated that they would like to avoid discussing politics which in effect means their employees cannot discuss it either on any platform that represents the company which includes their social media. They basically were telling her to stop criticizing the President publicly. Hill recently left the network and it appears that she will continue to be outspoken in regards to politics, gender, race and whatever topic she sees fit. This is a poignant move by James, hiring Hill for her first post-ESPN assignment on a project that highlights the need for athletes and anyone in the sports world to be vocal about social injustice and things that affect us in our everyday lives. Jemele doesn’t “stick to sports” and LeBron has definitely never been one to “shut up and dribble”.
James will also be producing a series about Madame CJ Walker, America’s first black self-made millionaire and the trials and tribulations she faced on her journey. He also has announced an untitled Muhammad Ali documentary. These projects are extremely important as they feature profoundly influential people in our culture’s history. And with James’ global reach, he can bring their stories to a new generation of people who may not have ever gotten the chance to discover them.
LeBron is expected to take the Lakers back to the promised land but his most important work in LA will take place outside of the Staples Center. He also made a splash recently by announcing Ryan Coogler (Black Panther) will be producing Space Jam 2. Coogler has been involved with such projects as Fruitvale Station and Marvel’s Black Panther. I am looking forward to seeing what else he has in store for the future.