LeBron James was the target of some harsh words from Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic this week and the Los Angeles Lakers superstar forward didn’t hold back when asked for a response to the criticism of his social activism.
“I would never shut up about things that are wrong,” James told reporters following the Lakers’ 102-93 win on Friday night. “I preach about my people and I preach about equality. Social injustice. Racism. Systematic voter suppression. Things that go on in our community.
“Because I was a part of my community at one point and saw the things that was going on and I know what’s going on still because I have a group of 300-plus kids at my school that are going through the same thing and they need a voice. And I’m their voice. I’m their voice and I use my platform to continue to shed light on everything that may be going on, not only in my community, but around this country and around the world.
“So, there’s no way I would ever just stick to sports because I understand how this platform and how powerful my voice is.”
James has been a force for change in many ways off the basketball court. Most notably, he helped create “More Than a Vote,” a nonprofit organization devoted to supporting Black voters, and opened the “I Promise School,” a public school in his native Akron, Ohio, for at-risk students.
Ibrahimovic to LeBron: ‘Do What You’re Good At’
Ibrahimovic didn’t go as far to say “shut up and dribble,” but told James to “do what you’re good at.”
“[LeBron] is phenomenal at what he’s doing, but I don’t like when people have some kind of status, they go and do politics at the same time,” Ibrahimovic said in an interview with Discovery+ Sweden. “Do what you’re good at. Do the category you do. I play football because I’m the best at playing football. I don’t do politics. If I would be a political politician, I would do politics.
“That is the big first mistake people do when they become famous and they become in a certain status. Stay out of it. Just do what you do best because it doesn’t look good.”
James had obviously heard the comments prior to his postgame press conference, making sure to note that he did his research on Ibrahimovic.
“He was the same guy who said when he was back in Sweden … because his last name wasn’t a certain last name, that he felt there was some racism going on when he was out on the pitch,” James said. “I speak from a very educated mind, so I’m kind of the wrong guy to actually go at because I do my homework.”
James was referring to Ibrahimovic saying he was subject to “undercover racism” in 2018 due to his last name.
“As athletes, we’ve been hearing this for a long time,” James told reporters. “You should [feel] privileged. You should be thankful to be able to dribble a ball or run a football or be able to do the 100-yard dash or be able to swing a baseball bat and things of that nature, You shouldn’t be able to speak about anything else, no matter if it’s right or wrong, you should just do that. But that’s not the case. That’s not the case anymore. As long as I’m around, it won’t be the case for a long time.”
Lakers Return to Win Column Behind LeBron James
The Lakers snapped a four-game skid on Friday with a 102-93 victory against the Blazers. James turned in a packed stat line in the win, notching 28 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 blocks and 4 steals in the victory.
What also helped the Lakers’ cause with guard Dennis Schroder being back in the lineup after missing time due to COVID-19 protocols.
“His energy alone gives us a spark,” James said, per Yahoo Sports. “His competitive nature gives us a spark. To have him back in our lineup just means so much to our team. It was big-time.”
The Lakers look to start another winning streak on Sunday against MVP contender Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors.