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LeBron James Scoffs At "Shut Up And Dribble" Command

Alexandra Walt via Flickr (Public Domain)

When the games finally end for LeBron James – and there is no sign that that end is anywhere in sight – he will leave as one of the true titans of his sport and of recent vintage in any American sport. James has averaged 25 points, five rebounds and five assists in 15 different seasons. The next closest player to have such a track record is the great Oscar Robertson, and he only has eight such seasons.

There are, of course, other achievements that distinguish James, like this one: He is one of three players to win NBA titles with three different teams.

However, unlike the other two, Robert Horry and John Salley, who were role players, LeBron James has been the driving force on each of his four title-winning clubs, including the Los Angeles Lakers last year.

But what truly sets James apart from his contemporaries and his predecessors is his willingness to cash in the capital his basketball fame has earned to say and do things that have nothing to do with points, rebounds and assists.

While a large number of star athletes make social commentary by handing out turkeys at Thanksgiving or buying ticket blocks in their stadiums or arenas, James does them a few better.

At a time when it might be safer to keep quiet about the American condition, James has rarely shirked what he considers a duty to speak to the human condition.

He has built a charter school for at-risk kids in his hometown of Akron, as well as given millions to cover the cost of Akron students to go to college.  

Boys and Girls Clubs, the Children’s Defense Fund and a Smithsonian exhibit honoring Muhammad Ali have been among the beneficiaries of James’ largesse.

But, while money speaks volumes, there are times when the right words from the right person are imperative. And, in those cases, LeBron James has been money in the bank.

Nine years ago, when Trayvon Martin was murdered in Florida, LeBron James and his then Miami teammates wore hoodies to show their solidarity and to draw attention to the savagery of the attack.

During the Trump administration, James repeatedly spoke truth to the horrors he perceived were being carried out. Sure enough, he drew fire from the president, but James gave as good as he got. 


The phrase “shut up and dribble” was invoked by Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham with James in mind.

And, last week, a soccer star named Zlatan Ibrahimovic essentially repeated the phrase, saying James’ should “just do what you do best because it doesn’t look good.”

James’ response? “I’ll use my platform to continue to shed light on everything that’s going on around this country and around the world. There’s no way I would ever just stick to sports, because I understand how powerful this platform and my voice is.”

At the end of his competitive day, LeBron James will be immortalized as one of the best ever.

But he’ll also be remembered for being a fully involved citizen of the nation and the planet. And that’s a lot more important than scoring baskets or just dribbling.

And that’s how I see it for this week.  


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Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.