It’s no secret that LeBron James and President Donald Trump are sitting on opposite sides of the aisle with regards to their political alignment. They’ve shared several back-and-forth moments on social media in recent years, which has created a highly publicized rift between the two. In this piece, we’ll take a look at how this beef came to be, and where it stands today. Basically, a LeBron James-Donald Trump timeline.
Before we get started, it’s worth noting that Trump once heralded James as “a tough competitor who delivers under pressure.” That’s what Trump said of LeBron in May 2015. Even before that in July 2013, Trump congratulated James for winning Athlete of the Year at the ESPYS.
LeBron was open with his support of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016. James had just led the Cavs to their first championship, and he was ready to promote Clinton’s candidacy at various events, including those in his home state of Ohio.
“She will build on the legacy of my good friend, President Barack Obama. “I believe in what President Obama has done for our country and support her commitment to continuing that legacy,” LeBron James wrote in an op-ed for Business Insider.
Ultimately, Trump won the 2016 election. And though he was not happy with the results, James accepted this fate.
“I mean, he’s our president,” LeBron James said after the election, via ESPN. “And no matter if you agree with it or disagree with it, he’s the guy, and we all have to figure out a way that we can make America as great as it can be. We all have to do our part. Our nation has never been built on one guy, anyway. It’s been built on multiple guys, multiple people in power, multiple people having a dream and making it become a reality by giving back to the community, giving back to the youth, doing so many great things.”
Things have changed quite a bit since those days, so let’s dive in.
Warriors reject White House visit
The public beginning of this beef goes back to September 22, 2017, when Stephen Curry and his Golden State Warriors teammates decided to decline an invite to the White House after winning the NBA championship. At that time, it was still custom for championship-winning teams to make a trip to the capital. Curry, as well as head coach Steve Kerr and All-Star teammate Kevin Durant, later cited their differing political stances as a reason for their withdrawal.
Trump rescinds invite
Seeing that the Warriors were not coming to the White House, Donald Trump actually revoked the invitation entirely. In a tweet, the president noted that Curry was “hesitating:”
Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team.Stephen Curry is hesitating,therefore invitation is withdrawn!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
The Warriors hadn’t made a final decision on a visit to the White House — until this message from Trump came down the wire. In fact, the team was set to discuss this matter on the morning before the president’s tweet was sent. From there, though, it was clear that they would not be attending.
After seeing that Trump had revoked the Warriors’ invitation to the White House, LeBron decided to stand up for Curry and his teammates. In a fiery tweet, the Akron native labeled the president as a “bum,” then explained why Golden State wasn’t coming:
U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain't going! So therefore ain't no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!
— LeBron James (@KingJames) September 23, 2017
Curry appreciated James’ strong words:
“That’s a pretty strong statement,” Curry said, via NBA.com. “I think it’s bold, it’s courageous for any guy to speak up, let alone a guy that has as much to lose as LeBron does and other notable figures in the league. We all have to kind of stand as one the best we can. For me, the questions how things have gone all summer if I wanted to go to the White House or not, I told you yesterday being very transparent what my vote would have been in a meeting had we had one, based on just trying to let people know I didn’t want to be applauded for an accomplishment on the court when the guy that would be doing the patting on the back is somebody I don’t think respects the majority of Americans in this country.”
We the people
As part of an Uninterrupted interview with Kevin Durant and Cari Champion in January of 2018, LeBron made a bold claim about the president, noting that he “doesn’t give a F about the people.”
“The No. 1 job in America, the appointed person, is someone who doesn’t understand the people. And really don’t give a f— about the people.” LeBron James said.
“It’s not even a surprise when he says something,” James said later in the interview. “It’s laughable and it’s scary.”
For our next entry, we’ll fast forward to July of 2018 — around the same time that LeBron was opening his I Promise School in Akron, Ohio. Political differences were becoming more apparent by this time, with athletes across all sports voicing their opinions in various ways. Collin Kaepernick had launched a movement by kneeling, and the Warriors had declined an invite to the White House.
As part of an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon, James took a headlining stance, claiming that Trump was using sports to divide the people:
“What I’ve noticed over the past few months,” LeBron James shared with CNN’s Don Lemon during a sit-down interview. “(Is) he’s kinda used sports to kinda divide us, and that’s something that I can’t relate to.”
Later in this discussion, James was asked if he might consider politics once his playing career had come to an end. The King dodged the question at first. However, when asked what he would say if someone told him, “If you don’t run, Trump’s going to win,” he had a change of tune.
“Well, in that case, I may (run),” James said in the 2018 interview. “I believe there’s someone else out there. I hope.”
Donald Trump responds to CNN interview
The President was quick to fire up his Twitter fingers after seeing LeBron’s interview with CNN. In a few blunt words, Trump called host Don Lemon “the dumbest man on television” while bashing James’ intelligence:
Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 4, 2018
MJ supports LeBron James
Though they’re often compared, Michael Jordan actually stood by LeBron after seeing Trump’s derogatory tweet. His Airness doesn’t say much when it comes to politics, but it was clear where his allegiance lied:
“I support LJ,” Jordan told a spokesperson in 2018, via Geoff Bennett of NBC News. “He’s doing an amazing job for his community.”
A nasty supporter
Our next entry brings us to October of 2020. The President joined Rush Limbaugh for a wide-ranging interview ahead of Election Day. During their discussion, Trump labeled James as a “hater” and “nasty spokesman” for the Democratic party.
“The NBA has become so political that nobody cares about it anymore,” Donald Trump said, via USA TODAY. He acknowledged that James is “a great basketball player,” before adding: “People don’t wanna see a guy that way. They don’t want to see that. We have enough difficulty during the week, you don’t wanna sit down watching a basketball game and then watch somebody that hates your guts, OK. He’s a hater.
“LeBron has been a spokesman, I don’t know I’ve never met him, all I know is when he endorsed Hillary,” Trump said. “LeBron is a spokesman for the Democratic party. A very nasty spokesman.”
Our latest entry in this beef brings us to November 2, 2020. Just one day before the presidential election, Trump supporters at a Pennsylvania rally came together in a collective bash on LeBron James.
As Trump spoke about media ratings being down across all platforms of sport, a chant began to ring out from the crowd. “LeBron James sucks… LeBron James sucks…”
“How about basketball?” Donald Trump asked while segueing into a tangent about NBA television ratings at a rally in Avoca, Pennsylvania, via USA TODAY. “How about LeBron? I felt badly for LeBron, very badly. Down 71% and that’s with the championship. I didn’t watch one shot. I get bored. Back, forth, back, forth. You know why? When they don’t respect our country, when they don’t respect our flag, nobody wants to watch.”
Why does he suck? Because he built a public elementary school in Akron to help at-risk children? Because he & other stars teamed up to create a voting rights group to combat voter suppression? Because he's poured millions into Ohio? Because he's become a leader for social change? https://t.co/VVdKy2zmiY
— Chris Fedor (@ChrisFedor) November 2, 2020
No matter which side of the proverbial fence you stand on in this matter, it’s clear to see that these are two individuals who do not see eye to eye. This is also unlikely the end of keeping up with the LeBron James-Donald Trump timeline.