From King James to President LeBron

How LeBron James has set himself up for a Presidential run, and why he can actually win.

A high-school-educated athlete who missed 83 days of school in fourth grade serving as President of the United States isn’t as far-fetched as it might have been prior to the 2016 Presidential Election. If Donald Trump has instilled any hope in the everyday American, it’s that they too can be President someday. George W. Bush had a similar effect simply by being, well, simple. But neither simpletons, Bush nor Trump, are self-made men like LeBron James.

James is the American Dream incarnate — a true, Horatio Alger story. He went from rags to riches and didn’t need a loan from his father or his father to serve as a cosigner on a $70 million loan to do so. In fact, James made it without his father entirely, and that is more representative of an upbringing in everyday America these days. According to a 2014 study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United States and Lithuania are tied with the third-highest percentage of children 14 and under living with a single parent. Twenty-seven percent of American children are raised like James was. And according to U.S. Census Bureau data, a third of Americans were living in or near poverty (between 100 and 150 percent of the poverty line) in 2014. So LeBron is more in tune with the everyday American than most career politicians have ever been.

The question isn’t whether or not James is qualified to be President of the United States. Trump has taught us that a candidate’s qualifications mean very little in comparison to the candidate’s popularity and perceived genuineness (not to be confused with perceived honesty). LeBron’s name recognition is unrivalled even when compared to Trump’s. His popularity is growing, and like Trump, he’s genuine to a fault at times, but not nearly as often. LeBron is more reserved than Trump, the Twitter troll — more Presidential than the President.

To run for President, you must be born in the United States, retain a residence in the United States for 14 years and be at least 35 years of age. That’s it. An advanced degree nor any college degree is required of a Presidential candidate. The only college that matters is the Electoral College.

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On Dec. 30, 2019, LeBron James will be eligible to run for President, and everything he’s done with his time off the court has properly prepared him for running a successful campaign as a Democrat in 2020 or beyond.

Schools Built: LeBron 1, Trump -1

Upon opening the “I Promise” public school James gifted to his hometown of Akron to serve at-risk youth in grades one through eight, James has been drawing the attention of the President and the support of a lot of people. As of this writing, more than 40,000 people have signed a Care2 petition calling for James to replace Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

While a select few have criticized James for leaving Ohio taxpayers with a $6 million annual tax bill to run the school, Ohio taxpayers aren’t actually paying an additional $6 million per year in taxes. They pay the annual budget for public schools regardless of James’s school being open or not. If anything, James is lowering their tax burden by $2 million annually and saved his hometown taxpayers from having to pass a school bond to fund the $2 million in repairs and renovations the school required.

Even if he wanted, James’s Family Foundation couldn’t lawfully pay the entirety of the public school’s $8-million annual budget without it becoming a private school, which isn’t James’s intent. While James attended a private high school, it wasn’t because his mother could afford it; it was because LeBron could ball. James built a public school to serve his people — poor people.

Trump, on the other hand, “built” Trump University, a for-profit, education company that defrauded “students” of both money and an education, costing Trump $25 million to settle lawsuits brought against the “university.” Meanwhile, James spent $41.8 million to send 1,100 Akron students to college.

James showed just how smart and Presidential he is by not responding to the President’s not-so-Presidential tweets after opening the I Promise school. James’s disacknowledgement of Trump’s diss got a rave review from his contemporary in the NFL, Aaron Rodgers, calling it “absolutely beautiful.” Perhaps James is going to let his game and three-part, Showtime docu-series Shut Up and Dribble serve as his response to the President’s “shut up and dribble” attitude in October. His HBO Sports show “The Shop” is already providing a preview of what’s to come from Hollywood LeBron. Advocate-athletes and other celebrities like Jon Stewart congregate in a barbershop to discuss sports’ impact outside the lines, how racism and classism have affected them personally and the socioeconomic impact of current events. These conversations might be unpopular amongst sports fans but contribute to LeBron’s Presidential résumé.

Trump’s sentiment is a popular one amongst his base, who seemingly want their reality television devoid of reality and their reality-television entertainers devoid of humanity. They want live-action, propagandic cartoons that ignore the injustices in their country and world, not documentaries drawing attention to those injustices. They and their President are in the minority though, and there are fewer LeBron haters than there are Trump haters.

Approval Rating: LeBron 53, Trump 39

According to Gallup, the President’s approval rating dropped from 41 to 39 percent in the week following his Twitter attack on LeBron. While that decline could be a result of just about anything the President has said or done or failed to say or do, it’s worth noting because it’s the lowest Trump’s approval rating has been since April. Trump’s all-time low approval rating is 35 percent, and he’s never been approved of by a majority of Americans. Trump entered office with an approval rating of 45 percent in 2017. A majority of Americans (53 percent) disapprove of the job Trump has done thus far.

Back in 2016, a Seton Hall Sports Poll found that 53 percent of 762 adult respondents approved of James, and that was before he won a championship for Cleveland. So it’s apparent that Trump’s and James’ approval ratings are moving in opposite directions, even as Laker fans bemoan the game’s best player daring to don the same colors as The Black Mamba — an admitted adulterer — and instantly lifting their team from basement-dweller to playoff contender. I have an uncle who loves the Lakers but hates LeBron. He says he won’t watch his favorite team with LeBron on it, but I’d bet money if the Lakers make the playoffs he’ll be on the LeBron bandwagon just like the Knicks fan who sold his fandom on Ebay for $3,450. But even with all that noise in Lakerland, James would easily win the state in a 2020 Presidential Election against Trump — or Mike Pence if Trump is impeached by then. Neither could challenge him in the two most important swing states either.

2020 Electoral College: LeBron 279, Trump 259

James is a native of Ohio, one of the best predictors of the eventual winner of U.S. Presidential Elections. No Republican candidate has ever won the Presidency without winning Ohio, and no Republican is going to win Ohio in a race against the Akron kid who quite literally won Cleveland its first ever NBA Championship single-handedly. That’s 18 electoral votes going from Trump and Pence to James and the Democrats in 2020. If James wins the same states Hillary Clinton did in 2016 along with his home state, he would need just 20 more electoral votes to win the Presidency, and he gets them in Florida.

James’s career in Miami, including back-to-back championships and four consecutive Finals appearances, should swing the state and its 29 electoral votes from Trump to the Democrats in 2020. Just like that, basketball’s best player and sports’ biggest star goes from King James to President LeBron. He’ll just be Presidenting while playing professional basketball for the Los Angeles Lakers instead of golfing poorly all alone. Or he could wait for a fellow advocate-athlete to become old enough to serve as his running mate.


Vote James/Kaepernick in 2028

Another thing Trump has taught us is that a politician can’t be too polarizing, because even at maximum polarization, half of everyone hates you and half of everyone loves you, and you don’t need to win the popular vote to win the Presidency. Regardless, Colin Kaepernick looks to be winning the popular vote over Trump on the subject of protesting racial injustice during the national anthem. FiveThirtyEight found that “a majority of Americans think players should be allowed to kneel — whether the respondents like it or not,” so Kaepernick is only almost as polarizing as the President. So the newly crowned king of Nike and unemployed quarterback isn’t too polarizing to be LeBron’s running mate.

It’s also more likely Kaepernick either wins or settles his collusion lawsuit against the NFL owners, which would likely boost his American popularity more so than being the face of the NFL’s uniform supplier through 2028 whilst not wearing an NFL uniform. Arbitrator Stephen Burbank ruled that Kaepernick’s legal team has sufficient evidence for the case to move forward with a hearing. NFL owners aren’t likely worried about legal fees, but Kaepernick isn’t either, forcing the NFL owners to consider whether continued coverage of the case costs them more money than paying Kaepernick a settlement and avoiding an admission to or conviction for wrongdoing.

“Don’t ask if your dreams are crazy; ask if they’re crazy enough.”

That’s the advice Kaepernick offers at the end of Nike’s 30th Anniversary advertisement for its “Just Do It” campaign, which is a good question LeBron should consider. Is aspiring to follow in Robert Johnson’s footsteps to become the next black, principal owner of an NBA team a crazy enough dream for LeBron? I think not. Playing professional basketball long enough to play with or against his son, however, might be crazy enough for Kaepernick.

James has said he wants to play on the same NBA court with his 14-year-old, already-dunking son, whom he regrets naming LeBron Jr. Since it’s likely the NBA will end its draft-eligibility age restriction before LeBron Jr. graduates high school, LeBron Sr. could play with or against his son as early as the 2022–23 season, when he’ll be 38 to his son’s 18. Even if LeBron balls until he’s 42, he’d be free to focus all his attention on the country in 2028 — a Presidential Election year.

If James doesn’t have political aspirations, he’s got a funny way of showing it. He obviously wants to be considered one of the best humans to play sports for a living along with Muhammad Ali more so than he wants to eclipse Michael Jordan as the Greatest of All Time in basketball. If rings were all that mattered to him, he would have chosen a team with a better chance of competing for a championship than the Lakers. His longing for Los Angeles is more influenced by off-the-court opportunities for him and his family than being the best basketball player in the best franchise’s history.

Most of us can’t help but look into every little thing LeBron does as something setting the stage for something bigger. His philanthropic choices are obviously representative of what’s in his heart, and that heart is proving to be Presidential in its size and stamina. If James wants the White House, he can have it if he’s willing to dream it.

Anthony Varriano
Anthony Varriano
Anthony Varriano is a writer, editor, and podcast host at Grandstand Central. He spent six years as a newspaper journalist, columnist, sportswriter, and photographer. He is also editor of Go Gonzo Journal and host of Foul Play-by-Play, a podcast about the week’s cheats, cheap shots, and alleged criminals in sports.



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