WHETHER or not you agree with the President’s policies, personality and tweets, it’s hard to see his attack on LeBron James as anything but an air ball.
Apparently miffed at an interview James gave to CNN in which he said Donald Trump “kind of uses sports to divide people,” the President hammered James in a tweet Friday night: “Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!”
If you need context, “Mike” is Michael Jordan, to whom James is often compared in discussions about the best NBA player in history. It should be noted that Jordan was notoriously apolitical, once remarking that “Republicans buy shoes, too,” and not necessarily known for his charitable donations.
James, on the other hand, just announced the creation of the I Promise School in his hometown of Akron, which will provide needy children with financial and emotional support—and will guarantee free tuition to the University of Akron for all students who complete the program.
It’s not surprising that the response to Trump’s tweet was swift and wide-ranging. Among those pushing back was Torrey Smith, the outspoken Stafford High School graduate who now plays for the Carolina Panthers. He labeled Trump’s tweet “immature and offensive.”
But when Jordan himself condemns the tweet, along with the first lady, you get the idea that Trump picked the wrong battle.
Jordan, who rarely praises anyone outside his personal circle, issued a statement Saturday that said, in part: “I support LeBron James. He’s doing an amazing job for his community.”
Melania Trump’s spokesperson also chimed in, saying: It looks like LeBron James is working to do good things on behalf of our next generation,” and adding that the first lady would be open to visiting the I Promise School.
Athletes are high on Donald Trump’s list of Twitter targets. He’s repeatedly demonized NFL players who kneel during the national anthem in protest of police violence against minorities, calling them SOBs and suggesting that they should be fined or released.
All this while the league and its players association are rationally discussing a solution to the issue, which many fans erroneously see as intentional disrespect for the military.
Anthem kneeling is a topic that’s worth debating (as is fair treatment of all citizens). It’s hard to find fault, though, with a superstar who gives back to his community—especially when he decides to leave it for a second time.
James recently signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Lakers. While Cavaliers fans were disappointed, the level of anger this time was far less than in 2010, when James made his ill-advised, nationally televised “Decision” to leave Cleveland and take his talents to South Beach and the Miami Heat.
That move prompted Cavaliers fans to burn James’ replica jerseys and say and tweet far worse things about James than James said about Trump. James took the high road then, always spoke highly of his time in Cleveland and eventually returned to lead the Cavaliers to their first NBA title in 2016.
You may not think James is the best basketball player of all time, but he’s already a better philanthropist than Jordan (or, reportedly, the president). This is one game of one-on-one that’s not going to end well for Trump.