There’s a school of thought — well, foolish thought — that black fathers don’t spend enough time with their children, nor do they even care to be involved in the lives of their kids. That way of thinking is, of course, patently false.
In the aftermath of LeBron James playfully throwing down a dunk in his son’s layup line, there’s a similarly silly commentary:
James — a black father — is TOO involved in his kids’ lives.
It’s the kind of senseless debate that happens in the dog days of summer, when folks are clamoring for anything to break up the monotony of daily baseball coverage.
It’s also the kind of debate that happens when people are unable to differentiate between incessant media coverage and father-son time. Ironically enough, it’s the polarizing backlash to stories such as these that will only fuel more of these stories in the future.
I watched James’ son, Bronny, compete at the Nike EYBL Peach Jam in North Augusta, South Carolina, earlier this month. The gym was packed, as expected, and, as the days progressed, became increasingly star-studded.
As impressed as I was with Bronny’s court vision — some things are hereditary, not taught — I was more impressed by the family atmosphere surrounding the team.
There’s the moment where Bronny’s kid brother, Bryce, joins the team in a pregame huddle. Later, there’s a moment where James’ wife, Savannah, and his daughter, Zhuri, practically look like twins as they enjoy the game. Toward the end of the game, Zhuri switches viewpoints — from mom’s lap to atop the shoulders of her grandmother, Gloria.
When you think about the initial two players of this great American story — LeBron and Gloria — and all of the expectations placed specifically on James, it’s remarkable what this family has been able to build.
Beyond that, it’s amazing that James has stayed true to who he is — basically, a big kid. That’s not a slight — it’s the ultimate compliment.
With all of the talk about his business savvy and potential status as the greatest of all time on the basketball floor, James is still in touch with his silly side. That’s what makes his recent “Taco Tuesday” posts so genuine, if not refreshingly quirky.
That’s the attitude that led to James punching a few dunks in the layup line.
If anything, James’ pregame dunks actually take pressure off of Bronny and his teammates. James has a unique perspective on unfair expectations, and if a few pregame dunks put the onus on him and not whether Bronny can live up to the James name, that’s proverbial dirt easily brushed off of his shoulders.
And then, there’s the weight of that name — LeBron James — which James admitted last summer he regretted passing down to Bronny:
“I still regret giving [Bronny] my name because of [basketball expectations],” James said during an episode of The Shop.
“When I was younger, I didn’t have a dad. So my whole thing was like, whenever I have a kid, not only is he going to be a junior, I’m gonna do everything that this man didn’t do.”
Sometimes, we get so caught up in our views of the media and sports fanaticism that we lose the essence of humanity — family, love, fellowship. From November to June, James is a basketball player. He’s spending his offseason not only being a dad, but a father figure. He’s imparting ideals on a group of young men that will impact them whether they play basketball professionally or not. It’s a team-based, loyalty-infused culture that has defined James’ existence — basketball and otherwise.
If you can’t respect that, to quote Jay-Z, your whole perspective is wack.