LeBron James, the undisputed best basketball player on the face of the earth, penned an op-ed for Business Insider Sunday urging Americans to register to vote and get out to the polls to help Hillary Clinton defeat GOP nominee Donald Trump. The Cleveland Cavaliers star cited Clinton's commitment to improving public education and her ability to keep the country unified amid racial tension.
"We need a president who understands our community and will build on the legacy of President Obama," James wrote. "So let’s register to vote, show up to the polls, and vote for Hillary Clinton."
Beyond policy agreement, James' basketball career and Clinton's political career share many similarities that might explain the motivations behind James' historic vote of approval. Here are four things James and Clinton have in common:
Success Under Fire
James' is enjoying a career high in popularity after returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014, after a multi-year stint with the Miami, and delivering an NBA title to the championship-starved city in June. However, for most of his career, James has had to face relentless criticism and the ire of basketball fans who either disagreed with his career choices, such as his televised decision to leave Cleveland for Miami in 2010, or resented his success. In 2015, a Harris poll survey of 2,220 American adults found that James was the most hated athlete in sports for the second straight year. James ranked higher than many high-profile athletes with criminal charges in their pasts, such as NFL players Michael Vick and Ray Rice. But all James has done in the face of that hatred is win three NBA championships, three NBA MVP awards and two Olympic gold medals.
Likewise, Clinton is running for president with record high unfavorability ratings. According to Real Clear Politics, an average of 54 percent of voters do not view Clinton favorably, but that number was as high as 56 as recently as July. Clinton's popularity has fluctauted drastically since she served as first lady during President Bill Clinton's tenure and advocated for universal healthcare. But despite allegations of corruption, multiple scandals and the durability of Republicans' (and many Bernie Sanders supporters') scorn, Clinton has been elected senator in New York, was appointed secretary of state by President Barack Obama in 2009 and this summer became the first female presidential nominee of a major political party.
Coping With Expectations
Since Lebron James appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in high school, he has been tasked with being the best basketball player since Michael Jordan. Anything short of that would be considered failure. But James' NBA career has not been perfect and many NBA pundits still hold his poor performance in Miami's upset loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA championship and another loss in 2014 to the San Antonio Spurs against him, even though James has gone on to win more championships.
Clinton, on the other hand, entered the 2008 Democratic primary race as the clear favorite and presumed heir to the nomination. She was eventually upset by Obama, a first time Illinois senator. Clinton, however, did not fade away. She served as Obama's secretary of state from 2009 until 2013 and now plans to succeed him as the 2016 Democratic nominee. Obama is her most prominent supporter on the campaign trail.
Centrist Political Stances
James is the most famous athlete in the country and an idol to millions of Americans, including many black Americans, so many look to him to be a leader on issues of race in the country. But though James has expressed solidarity with victims of police shootings and violence — earlier this year he gave a speech at the ESPY awards calling for reform and has worn T-shirts on the court honoring victims of police altercations — he has been restrained in his public support of the Black Lives Matter movement as a whole. Last week, he told reporters that he believes that "all lives matter" and that, while he supports NFL player Colin Kaepernick's protest of the national anthem in the name of greater racial equality, he would not be following Kaepernick's lead in the upcoming NBA season.
"Me standing for the national anthem is something I will do," James said at the Cleveland Cavaliers annual media day on Sep. 27. "That's who I am. That's what I believe in. But that doesn't mean I don't respect and don't believe in what Colin Kaepernick is doing. You have the right to voice your opinion, stand for your opinion, and he's doing it in the most peaceful way I've ever seen someone do something."
Clinton has been similarly centrist in her approach to many key issues, including college affordability and income equality. This, along with accusations that Clinton is beholden to big donors and special interests, set the Democratic nominee up for a difficult primary battle against Sanders, the Vermont senator who is far to the left of Clinton on many issues. Even though Clinton has since won the nomination, she has not fully won over nearly a third of Sanders' supporters who do not believe she is progressive enough to deserve their vote.
Hands On Approach
Clinton has a reputation as a policy wonk, a diligent lawmaker with an obsessive eye for detail in legislation, with less ability as a politician on the campaign trail giving a speech. Over the course of James' career, the NBA superstar has similarly favored a hands-on approach to his philanthropy and activism, instead of grand gestures, such as Kaepernick's anthem protest.
James has partnered with the University of Akron in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, to provide a guaranteed four-year scholarship to the school for over 1,100 students in his I Promise program. James will put up over $40 million to fund the program and personally oversees the development of the students, even sending them personalized voicemail messages to encourage them to stay in school. James has also invested extensively in small businesses in Cleveland in an effort to revitalize the struggling city. Clinton would be proud.