Gregg Popovich explains how LeBron James' biggest contributions to society have been made off the court

Ronald Cortes/Getty ImagesGregg Popovich and LeBron James embrace after a game between the Spurs and Cavaliers.
  • San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich complimented LeBron James on his social impact ahead of the Spurs game against the Cavaliers on Sunday.
  • Popovich spoke to how James has been a source of inspiration for his community, and argued that his biggest impacts likely take place off the court.
  • James returned the kind words, saying that Pop was one of his “all-time favourite people” that he’s ever crossed paths with.

Gregg Popovich had some kind words for Cavaliers superstar LeBron James before the Spurs game against the Cavaliers on Sunday, explaining to reporters his belief that James might have even more impact off the court than he’s had as the best basketball player on the planet for the last decade.

The comments come in the wake of Fox News anchor Laura Ingraham’s claim that James should “Shut up and dribble” after James offered critiques of President Trump in a video for Uninterrupted. James responded by stating that he was more than an athlete, and later elaborated on how his contributions go well beyond basketball.

When asked, Popovich mentioned how impressive it is that James has been in the spotlight since such a young age, and how he’s always been able to navigate media with grace. “I mean, think about when he came into public view, how young was he?” Popovich said.

“And to this day he hasn’t missed a step, he hasn’t fallen off the ledge and he’s been a brilliant example for millions of kids, especially kids with lesser opportunity and haven’t had the same advantages as others.”

Popovich noted the large impact James has had both through acts of charity, and as a source of inspiration to his community and basketball fans, while also criticising Ingraham for her effort to deter James’ speech. Per ESPN:

“There really is a First Amendment and you can have opinions — as a coach, as a plumber, as an astrophysicist and a lowly reporter. They can have whatever opinions they want, and that’s what’s amazing about this when you look at this guy, 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, to have that superhero? Well, LeBron’s been that for a long time. For somebody to be totally numb to that and attack him in such a childish way really speaks more volumes about that individual than it does LeBron. He’s very, very special. We should all be very proud that we have someone like that who’s willing to speak about a variety of topics and you listen to them all.”

James returned the kind words, saying “Pop is definitely one of my all-time favourite people that I’ve ever crossed paths with in my life.” James also assured that he would continue to speak out, and hoped to be an inspiration to others.

“For me as an athlete and for me as a role model, I just try to do my part to help these kids and the youth understand how important their lives are and they can become anything in this world.”

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