To say that LeBron James isn't enjoying his summer is an understatement.
Not only is he filming the sequel to the 1996 Michael Jordan-led Looney Tunes movie ‘Space Jam,’ not only is he posting his over enthusiastic ‘Taco Tuesday’ videos onto social media but he’s also been front and center at his eldest son, LeBron ‘Bronny’ James, Jr.’s, AAU basketball games.
It is here were the line between fandom, helicopter parenting and being one of the five greatest basketball players to ever live becomes blurry.
Two recent videos have been making the social media rounds and both have raised the question about parenting an athlete, to the larger scale and James’ privilege of being the ultimate helicopter parent in a lesser degree. The first video shows after Bronny catches an alley-oop, James is on the far side of the court celebrating so hard that he loses his shoe in the process. This could have caused a stoppage in the game because James had to remove the shoe (with help from someone) from the court before the teams got back onto that end of the floor.
The newest video shows James joining Bronny’s team’s pregame layup line and having his own personal dunk contest. Of course, these combo videos have brought ire from some of my ilk.
“LeBron James isn’t the first nor will he be the last sports dad to make himself the focus of his child’s burgeoning athletic career. … Super dads anxious to groom their son’s skills and bask in the glory of their success,” said Jason Whitlock, co-host of Fox Sports 1’s ‘Speak for Yourself.’ “This is has all pretty much standard operating procedure for LeBron at his son’s games.
“In his mind, LeBron is making fatherhood cool and fun again. I disagree. LeBron is making a spectacle of himself, a circus of his son’s early playing days and using his son’s game as another platform to build the LeBron social media brand. It’s inappropriate.” (Although there is also video of James coaching his son and other kids from the team but who cares right?)
A few things to make note here. Whitlock is NOT a parent so he’s speaking from a position of someone who doesn’t have a child to support in their athletic or academic endeavors. Secondly, James grew up without a father in his life so his approach as both being a super elite athlete and a father to a son who many think has the potential to be as heralded as him would be viewed as unorthodox.
I understand James’ approach. I grew up without my father in my life. In fact, I don’t even know to this day if my father knows that I was a collegiate athlete. So obviously, I didn’t have my dad to be against the fence screaming out ‘run faster’ during a track meet or celebrate when I cross the finish line after winning the conference 200-meter championship. [My uncle played that role.] So what James is doing is being the dad that he never had. What James is doing at the very least is trying to alleviate the pressure off of Bronny of being James’ son. James is demonstrating another side of fatherhood that sorely lacks in predominantly black families but impacts families across the racial spectrum. James is being that dad who goes out into the yard (in this case court) and plays catch with their son or daughter. James is being that dad who plays those one-on-ones with their son or daughter on the driveway hoop. James is being that dad that we all wanted but few of us had growing up.
So yes, James is being a helicopter parent. And yes, he is doing too much. But James’ helicopter parenting is akin to Santa Claus. An almost mythical being who brings joy to kids (and parents too) and who is worth the privilege of him being able to do what other parents can’t in those situations — act a fool. And despite knowing that Santa isn’t real, we still allow kids to take a picture with him in the mall because we know that one moment means something special.
I can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at ChrisHarris_DLJ.