American Dad: LeBron James

lebron james and son

By Charles C. Davis, Jr. / @ccdavisjr

As has been previously stated on this blog, I am not a basketball fanatic. I enjoy basketball, love Inside the NBA and actually believe that the NBA Playoffs provide the most fulfilling postseason experience of any of the four major professional sports. But I’m still not a fanatic. To that end, the opening of the new NBA season was not anywhere on my radar.

What did catch my eye however was a posting by TSFJ friend of the family member Keith Tolbert regarding the great job that both the Samsung and Nike marketing teams have done in their treatment of LeBron James’ new commercials. His post piqued my interest so I headed to the internet to check them out. In the Nike commercial, LeBron is shown leading his own inner-city Ironman competition through the streets of Miami with throngs of followers in tow. The Samsung commercial, however, is the one that stuck out to me most.

The Samsung ad doesn’t feature overpriced shoes, overvalued jewelry, adoring fans or an entourage. Instead, the ad features LeBron at home with his high-school sweetheart and now wife Savannah taking home movies (albeit with a smartphone) of her husband as he spends quality time with their two sons exercising and playing basketball. An African-American man, at home with his wife and sons teaching them “the family business.” Once the commercial was over, I instantly wondered, “Is LeBron James one of the best examples of African-American fatherhood in popular culture today?”

In an article this past summer, Duke Professor Mark Anthony Neal addressed outlined many of the complexities associated with pop culture depictions of not only African-American Males, but African-American Male Fathers. Interestingly enough, he references an earlier Samsung Commercial featuring LeBron once again actively engaged with his family at the breakfast table.

There are several archetypes of black fathers in the cultural cannon ranging from the dogged determination of James Evans to the gregarious nature and professional successes of Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable. The obvious difference between these characters and LeBron James is that his life is a work of nonfiction. LeBron James is a 28-year-old man. Moreover, LeBron James is a man whom we all first encountered as a 17-year-old boy in Akron, Ohio. We’ve gotten an all-access view of his life at both its zenith and its nadir. Perhaps LeBron’s greatest legacy may not be in any record book, but in the fact that one day young black men may put their own spin on his sentiments at the end of the 2013 NBA Finals:

“I’m from the inner city. I’m not even supposed to be here. That’s enough. Every night that I walk into my house and see my wife and children, I’m blessed. So what everybody say about me out in the world don’t matter. I ain’t got no worries.”

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