“Shut-up and dribble” were words spoken to LeBron James earlier this year after he made comments criticizing President Trump. “Shut-up and dribble” is a sentiment shared by many sports fans who wish to see athletes remain in their athletic box and not use their platforms to facilitate change. James has refused to “shut-up and dribble” and has used his platform to show young athletes that it is possible to be “more than an athlete” by opening the I Promise School earlier this week. King James, regarded by many as the greatest athlete in the world, was “more than an athlete” when he, in conjunction with Akron Public Schools opened the I Promise School for at-risk youth in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. James opened the school with the vision of helping at-risk children overcome many of the same obstacles he faced at their age.
King James is destroying the “shut-up and dribble” mentality that refuses to acknowledge professional athletes as anything more than an athlete performing a sport for viewer pleasure, while simultaneously creating a paradigm shift in the mindset of young athletes and other at-risk youth. Young athletes, particularly those from at-risk neighborhoods, view their athletic abilities as a mechanism to escape adverse circumstances and rarely think of their abilities as a gateway to something greater than athletics. Young athletes fail to have a greater view because their professional athlete role models have complied with the “shut-up and dribble” mentality and have been reluctant to challenge the status quo in fear that such a challenge could cost them their job.
LeBron James realized that his unique set of skills and abilities set him apart from other athletes and has placed him in a unique position to challenge the “shut-up and dribble” mentality and show young athletes that they too can be “more than an athlete.” Opening the I Promise School is the embodiment of being more than an athlete and is a direct demonstration of the accomplishments that young athletes and the youth in black, brown, and at-risk communities should strive to achieve.
LeBron’s example in opening the I Promise School may change the mindset of young athletes and black and brown youth alike by making them bolder in the pursuit of their education and endeavors outside of athletics. His example has shown young athletes that they do not have to be defined by their athletic abilities and should seek to establish an identity that is untethered to their athletic prowess. Witnessing the opening of the, I Promise School may broaden the minds of young athletes and black and brown youth by making them more independent in their thinking when it comes time choose a college and a major.
The opening of this school has provided young athletes and all at-risk youth with an example of how to give back to their community and establish an ownership interest in their community that can be used to create jobs and other opportunities that were not there before. Perhaps most importantly, LeBron’s opening of the I Promise School in the prime of his basketball career is a direct demonstration that it is possible to be socially conscious and socially active while dominating on the court.
The I Promise School is a game changer in every respect. It is destroying the rhetoric that athletes should simply stick to athletics. The school is offering hope to an at-risk community and is sparking a conversation that others similarly situated to LeBron James should follow suit and engage in similar endeavors in their respective communities. Most importantly, it has made an impression on the minds of young athletes and may inspire them to dream a different dream where they are not only superstar athletes but are also superstars in their communities and in the greater global society.