Lakers star LeBron James typically makes headlines anytime he says anything. This is due to the fact that his voice holds so much weight. Recently, James’ response to someone else’s comments is what ultimately made headlines, as he fired back at soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who recently criticized James for not just sticking to basketball. While many people have praised James’ response to Ibrahimovic, Stephen A. Smith of ESPN wasn’t entirely satisfied with what he said.
LeBron James fired back at Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, one of the greatest soccer players to ever play the sport, was recently critical of Lakers star LeBron James.
“I don’t like when people have some kind of status, they go and do politics at the same time,” he said to UEFA for Discovery+, according to USA Today. “Do what you’re good at. Do the category you do. I play football because I’m the best at playing football. I don’t do politics. If I would be a political politician, I would do politics.”
LeBron James has since responded.
“He was the same guy who said when he was back in Sweden … because his last name wasn’t a certain last name, that he felt there was some racism going on when he was out on the pitch,” James said, according to ESPN. “I speak from a very educated mind, so I’m kind of the wrong guy to actually go at because I do my homework.”
According to ESPN, Ibrahimovic once said that he had dealt with “undercover racism” in his home of Sweden due to his Bosnian roots giving him a surname that doesn’t sound like a traditional Swedish name.
“I would never shut up about things that are wrong,” LeBron James, who played for the Lakers while Ibrahimovic played for the LA Galaxy, added, per ESPN. “I preach about my people, and I preach about equality. Social injustice. Racism. Systematic voter suppression. Things that go on in our community.”
He continued: “I was a part of my community at one point and saw the things that was going on, and I know what’s going on still because I have a group of 300-plus kids at my school that are going through the same thing, and they need a voice. And I’m their voice. I’m their voice, and I use my platform to continue to shed light on everything that may be going on, not only in my community, but around this country and around the world.”
Stephen A. Smith responded to the king’s comments
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith certainly respected what LeBron James said in response to Ibrahimovic. He still wanted more, though.
“I like it; I don’t love it,” Smith said of James’ comments on the March 1 episode of First Take. “The reason why I don’t love it is that I thought LeBron should have went at him harder. I love the fact that LeBron pointed out his hypocrisy, how this was the same guy who did speak about his name, and racist connotations that came along with it and how he was being prejudiced against in the past. But yet when it came to LeBron James and others, he’s speaking about how folks need to stick to sports. I think he should’ve been more specific. He was basically trying to say that Black athletes should stick to sports. That’s how I took it.”
Smith continued: “You do have a lot of folks out in this world that look at Black men who are particularly influential and incredibly powerful, and they feel they should stay in a certain place. They should be more appreciative as opposed to feeling deserving, and things of that nature. I think this shows the kind of prejudice that we’re accustomed to experiencing as Black men — it doesn’t just exist in America. … I loved how LeBron came back and responded, but I also thought that LeBron was very classy and far too nice compared to what he could’ve been.”
Whether you think LeBron James should have went at Ibrahimovic harder or not, the biggest takeaway is that he will never just stick to sports.
LeBron James has never just stuck to sports
Yes, in terms of U.S. politics, LeBron James wasn’t afraid to criticize former President Donald Trump during his four years in office. He doesn’t just talk the talk, though.
James formed More Than a Vote in 2020, which helped reduce voter suppression in Black communities across America, per USA Today. He also has his I Promise Program, which includes a school, low-cost housing, and the plans for a community center in Akron, Ohio that will have “financial planning, job training, physical activity, and community events” all in one location, per the Los Angeles Times.
For Zlatan Ibrahimovic and anyone else who wants to come at LeBron James in the future, hopefully, they are starting to understand that he will never just stick to sports.