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A Letter to LeBron James

3/6/2007

Author Dax-Devlon Ross has penned a letter to LeBron James. It's a rare cultural document, especially in that it meaningfully references both Ralph Nader and Allen Iverson without skipping a beat. Ross even proposes a new nickname: G.I. James. The letter culminates in this:

I need to understand what you mean when you say you want to be an “ambassador to the world” in one sentence and one of the “richest men in the world” in another. So far as I can tell you’re headed to perhaps the most illustrious NBA career of any man ever to play the game. You will undoubtedly earn more in your lifetime than hundreds if not thousands if not tens of thousands of hard-working everyday people will collectively. There isn’t any question that yours will be a face recognized throughout the world. But to achieve global ambassadorship you will need to do more than be a great marketing machine. You will need to be more than a spectacularly well-poised young man. You will need to do more than become rich beyond your wildest dreams, more than win rings and medals. While you speak of being an icon on the level of Muhammad Ali, the course you’ve taken so far underscores an ambition to be a global brand, which shouldn’t be mistaken for the same thing. Ali inspired oppressed people all over the world to stand up for themselves. Even his most memorable moments in the ring were when he was the underdog. Similarly, part of A.I.’s appeal to fans from Spain to China rests on our collective identification with the David’s of the world. You, I’m afraid, are not an underdog. You, with your millions in endorsements and imposing physical gifts, your seemingly smooth ride from the cradle of your mother’s Humvee to the star spangled lap of luxury, are the Goliath, which makes your path to glory that much steeper and treacherous. It is your fortune and misfortune to have arrived in the post-Jordan era. He has paved the road to wealth and fame for you, but he’s also made us all aware of the soul-destroying costs (indifference in the face of human rights injustice, silence in the face of political backwardness) of walking that road. You don’t have the luxury of apathy and passivity if you sincerely expect to win the hearts of the world. We admire you. We are in awe of you. But we are reluctant to identify with you for those very reasons. Yours is a challenge few human beings would accept and even fewer would see through. My only hope is that the G.I. doesn’t just end up standing for Lebron “Good Intentions” James; we already know whose road is littered with such estimable designs.