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Victor Oladipo, Pacers

LeBron James is the Black Panther of the NBA

Marvel Studios has been producing some of the biggest blockbuster movies in Hollywood since 2008 when they released “Iron Man.” These days, “Black Panther” is the latest superhero filmmaking waves at the box office and delivering a powerful message to its viewers. The social impact is synonymous with what many heroes in the NBA strive to represent.

Throughout his career, LeBron James has been vocal about issues that he is passionate about, no matter how controversial. He was ranked among the world’s most influential athletes by Forbes twice in his career and was listed in 2017 by Time as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

To many across the globe, James is a live-action superhero, capable of the most incredible feats and making the impossible possible. It’s no wonder then that Gregg Popovich, one of the greatest coaches in league history, compared James to the Marvel superhero.

“That’s what’s amazing about this when you look at this guy,” Popovich said. “How many millions of dollars, tens of millions of dollars he’s given. Tens of millions of kids that are inspired by him. It’s kind of like the Black Panther movie. How cool is that for kids to see that and have that superhero? Well, LeBron’s been that for a long time.”

When asked about his opinion about the “Black Panther” movie, James was all praises of the Marvel’s newest film.

“It’s one of the greatest movies I’ve ever seen,” James said. “And so many different reasons why. At this time and place right now in the society, we’re in right now I think it was like perfect timing.”

James was so complimentary of the film, its message, and the character that it was almost as if he was channeling his inner superhero, specifically the protagonist of the movie he just watched.

LeBron James is the Black Panther of the NBA and here are five compelling reasons why.

LeBron James

Robert Duyos/Sun Sentinel/MCT

LeBron James kinda looks like the Black Panther with this protective mask on coupled with the black jersey, doesn’t he?

5. KNOWLEDGE

As the latest in a long line of his ancestors who have taken on the mantle of the Black Panther, T’Challa can draw on the knowledge, strength, and experience of every one of them and can utilize them to his advantage in a fight.

Black Panther

Copyright Marvel Comics

Similarly, James knows the history of the game and the players that have made their mark in the league since its early beginnings. His game is a mix of the legends that have come before him. Built like Karl Malone and possessing his brute strength, James harmoniously combines the explosiveness and scoring ability of Michael Jordan with the passing acumen of Magic Johnson.

He is the latest in a long line of point forwards from Paul Pressey, to Scottie Pippen, to Grant Hill, and he is an all-around basketball player in the mold of Oscar Robertson.

LeBron James

David Butler II/USA Today Sports

He studies and reads the game like a coach, having the ability to remember plays and events from years back, something that those who have played with him can attest to.

“I can usually remember plays in situations a couple of years back — quite a few years back sometimes,” James told ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. “I’m able to calibrate them throughout a game to the situation I’m in, to know who has it going on our team, what position to put him in.

“I’m lucky to have a photographic memory,” he adds, “and to have learned how to work with it.”

James is the embodiment of the many players that have come before him, and he has the knowledge and wisdom from lessons learned watching them play, coupled with his own personal experiences.

4. INDESTRUCTIBLE

Black Panther wears a costume that’s made from the fictional metal called vibranium. Vibranium is a rare extraterrestrial metallic ore which came from a meteorite that fell to Earth that the Wakandans harnessed to power their society and protect their people.

Black Panther

Matt Kennedy/©Marvel Studios 2018

The vibranium costume that Black Panther wears makes him virtually indestructible as the material protects him from nearly every injury imaginable.

In the same manner, James is arguably the most durable and indestructible player in the history of the NBA. He has missed only 15% of his games during his 15-year career. In fact, some of the games he didn’t play in were simply precautionary measures meant to keep him fresh for the playoffs.

LeBron James flex

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

FiveThirtyEight.com’s Owen Phillips notes how remarkable that is.

“Among players of his caliber, past and present, that’s unprecedented. Stephen Curry had ankle issues at the start of his career; both Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant experienced late-season injuries that forced them to miss the playoffs in, respectively, 2000 and 20131; and Michael Jordan broke his foot in his sophomore season. Then there’s James. He’s never missed a playoff game, and even though he has the sixth-most regular-season minutes of all time among players at the same point in their careers (within their first 14 years in the league), the most severe injuries he’s incurred are a sore back and knee and some untimely cramps.”

James is as indestructible as they come. Just ask any player who has tried to stop him from barreling his way to the hoop.

3. HEIR TO THE THRONE

T’Challa is the heir to the throne vacated by his father, King T’Chaka, after his untimely death at the hands of a super-villain, Ulysses Klaw, in the comics. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it was Baron Zemo who killed him. Later, T’Challa would take his rightful place as the King of Wakanda but not until after defeating a worthy opponent in ritual combat.

Chadwick Boseman, Black Panther

©Marvel Studios

The season before James entered the league, Michael Jordan retired for the third and final time, as a 40-year old player content to leaving the game to the younger players who have taken over the league.

Dubbed “The Chosen One” by Sports Illustrated in a cover story back in 2002, James had the title tattooed on his back and promptly took over the league as the next king of the hardwood. He is also known as “King James,” the “Air Apparent” after his idol Air Jordan who retired just months earlier. He even wears number 23 to honor his kingly predecessor.

LeBron James

Copyright Sports Illustrated

But James had to endure and defeat several opponents such as the Chauncey Billups and Ben Wallace’s Detroit Pistons, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett’s Boston Celtics, and Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook’s Oklahoma City Thunder.

Years later, in 2012, James finally ascended to the throne as he captured the first of his three championships.

Both King James and King T’Challa certainly have royalty running in their blood but they each had to prove that they deserved to be kings.

2. MAKING A DIFFERENCE

The “Black Panther” movie is not merely about how great the character is but with how great his kingdom is and the responsibility that he has as the ruler of a country that has much to offer the world.

The story ends with King T’Challa sharing his nation’s wealth of knowledge and resources to a world in need of them.

“Black Panther is that because right now in society,” James continued, “where we’re talking Black Lives Matter and equality and things of that nature and we see a community in Wakanda who basically sheltered themselves away from everybody because they felt that what they had and how they protected their own was the best way for them to survive. And then toward the end, they said ‘In order for us to survive as a people we have to be one. In order for us to be as great as we can be we have to be one. And we’re going to lend our resources, we’re going to lend what we’ve done over our whole existence to everybody.’”

LeBron James charity work

MoneyInc.com

The Akron native knows his place in the world and that he lives in a country that can make a difference. As one of the world’s most influential,, James understands that he has a responsibility to share his resources to those in need.

In 2015, ESPN reported that the Cavaliers star, through his LeBron James Family Foundation, pledged that he and the University of Akron will sponsor full scholarships for 1,100 children currently in his “I Promise” program. That’s a donation of $41.8 million, making him one of the most charitable athletes in the world.

James wants to change the world, not just with his words and his example, but with his wealth and he has certainly proven that over the years. And he isn’t quite done yet.

1. INSPIRATION

“Black Panther” isn’t the first black Marvel character to have a solo film. Wesley Snipes played a black superhero who was a vampire-killer in the “Blade trilogy” from 1998 to 2004. But “Black Panther” is the first black superhero to have a solo film from Marvel Studios.

Black Panther 1st appearance

Copyright Marvel Comics

Black Panther made his first appearance in the pages of Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four #52 way back in 1966. Created by comic book legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Black Panther is known as the first black superhero. He became the inspiration for other creators as the first of many other black superheroes to come after him from both DC and Marvel Comics.

The character soon became an inspiration to the black community during the late 60’s and James has become an inspiration to this generation as well. He understands the value of being a role model to black kids who recognize him as their motivation to “Strive for Greatness,” James’ motto that became a rallying cry and not just a Nike slogan attributed to him.

Chadwick Boseman, Black Panther

Kwaku Alston/©Marvel Studios 2018

“For me as a kid growing up, I never thought I would see a black superhero,” James added. “I loved superheroes growing up. I love Batman, I love Superman, I love Spiderman and Iron Man but I never thought I could be them because they were always white Americans. Or white.

“So I kind of looked up more to athletes and rappers and people in my neighborhood because they were one of color. So to see how powerful Black Panther is and how powerful his tribe was and his people around him, it gave me a sense of ‘Yes, not only can we be the President of the United States — Barack Obama — we can also be a superhero in Black Panther’

“It’s so dope for me and it’s so dope for my kids to see that right now at this point in time.”

When James said the words, “we can also be a superhero,” he placed his left hand on his midsection, with a smile slowly growing on his face as if he was referring to himself as the superhero. “Black Panther,” he concluded.

When Popovich likened Black Panther to James, it inspired well-known graphic artist BossLogic to reimagine the Cavaliers superstar as the Marvel character, a striking image that befits the superheroic nature of its subject.

If Jordan is known as the “Black Cat,” and Kobe Bryant is the “Black Mamba,” then it’s only fitting that we call LeBron James the “Black Panther”.

He is, after all, a living, breathing NBA superhero.