Blythe Hastings ’23
Lebron James is one of the best basketball players and Black athletes of all time, and he just narrowed the race even further. The Los Angeles forward made history earlier this Black History Month when he broke former Lakers great Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s all-time NBA points record, putting him at 38,388 career points and renewing the debate over who is the league’s greatest player of all time, all of whom are Black athletes. James broke Abdul-Jabbar’s record, which has stood for 34 years, in the third quarter of the Laker’s home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, with Abdul-Jabbar in attendance. James, a four-time NBA champion and four-time league MVP, passed 38,000 career points last month, a landmark that only two players have ever accomplished, scoring an impressive 35 points and making 10 assists and eight rebounds in the Laker’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. He had previously surpassed Utah Jazz great Karl Malone—the third highest points total of all time with 36,928—as well as Kobe Bryant (33,643) and Michael Jordan (32,292), who is often considered the greatest of all time. Black excellence in the NBA is no new feat, but with Lebron breaking a long-standing record such as this, he has raised the standard for years to come.
James, a four-time NBA Finals MVP, is two short of Jordan’s record of six Final’s MVPs, and fourth all-time in assists, ninth in steals, fourth in free throws made, and second in field goals made, only behind Abdul-Jabbar. Forbesvalues James’ net worth at $1 billion, largely due to a series of lucrative endorsement deals that often lead to him taking equity stakes in companies. James was the world’s second-highest paid athlete in Forbes’2022 rankings, only behind Lionel Messi, making $41.2 million exclusively on the court, not including his endorsement deals. James became the first active NBA players to reach billionaire status last year.
Along with his excellent basketball career, James has used his resources as a philanthropist. James set up the Lebron James Family Foundation which raises money and donates to multiple partnered charities including the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, After-School All-Stars, the Children’s Defense Fund, and A Force For Change.
Most recently, Lebron James donated money for the exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture’s exhibit honoring Black boxing legend Muhammad Ali. The exhibit entitled “Muhammad Ali: A Force For Change,” spans two parts of the museum honoring Ali, one celebrating his stellar boxing career and one celebrating his social activism. Lebron donated $2.5 million to the exhibit, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson also made contributions. Lebron has said that Ali was an important inspiration to him as an athlete but also as a champion of justice. Lebron admired the boxing legend, who passed away in June 2016 after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease, for his passion, goals and morals during and after the civil rights movement.