NBA Stars Are Way More Than Basketball Players, and That’s How it Should Be

It's time to stand and speak. I'm talking to all the athletes with a message. People might want you to shut up, but all of us, we're listening.

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It’s time to stand up; for everyone and for everything.

I am so tired of people trying to keep athletes on the field/court. They can say it’s just sports, but we all know it’s more than that. Sports in America are much more than a game. From a money standpoint, sports generate more revenue than most other outlets. They produce passionate players that are the best at what they do on the field or court.

It’s time to let them help elsewhere.

It’s no secret that America is struggling with equality. Politics only drive people further apart and produce never-ending arguments. Sports, on the other hand, bring people together.

You ever walked into a sports bar during a big game? You can literally see strangers uniting and bonding over the happiness (and sadness) of a few beers and a good contest. From the time we are able to first put a jersey on, sports bring us together. They teach us valuable life lessons that we carry on and off the field for as long as we live. Sports are so special and close to many people, so why are we trying to keep athletes quiet?

Children, teenagers and even adults look up to these men and women. I follow my favorite athletes and teams closer than almost everything else. I care what they have to say, because they are intelligent people. Why are we trying to silence our idols?

I know why.

It’s because we are scared at what they might say, and how right they might be.

It all started with Colin Kaepernick taking the infamous knee. No one had ever stood up to the norm of the National Anthem. I am not saying it’s the right thing to do, but Kaepernick certainly got his message across. He stood up for what he believes in, and that started a wave.

The people that did not agree with Kaepernick’s decision are most likely siding with the people that want athletes to shut up and play their sports. But the point is, we’re past shutting anyone up. With every school shooting, massacre, and political turmoil, we grow apart. It’s time to grow together, and sports are one of the best ways to do it.

It’s time for the athletes to speak, and we need to take in every message they have. Why? Because what they have to say might just be extremely important and helpful.

Lebron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant: “Shut Up and Dribble”

Laura Ingraham of Fox News did not like Kevin Durant and LeBron James criticizing President Trump. Ingraham opened a new gate when she told James and Durant to “shut up and dribble.”

This is blasphemous and this is why we have the problems that we do. Being a professional athlete in no way makes you an airhead or unintelligent. In fact, some of the smartest men and women in the world play professional sports. We can no longer silence these athletes. They have a platform, let’s let them use it.

LeBron James is infinitely more than a basketball player; he is a national influence that has overcome all the odds to reach the stage he is on. It was great to see James and others lash back, because silence just isn’t the answer. These are not just basketball players, they are social influences. James responding to Ingraham the way he did was perfect. Children and teenagers all over the nation saw this, and I hope they learned a lot from it. As they grow through their adolescence, may we hope they never shut up and always stand up for what they believe in.

If you watched the Oscars (you probably did) then you saw Kobe Bryant win an award. There are famous stars and directors that have never seen an Oscar before. But hey, that basketball player just won one. “Dear Basketball” won the award for Best Animated Short. Bryant is just one of thousands that are way more than basketball players. Being an athlete and making it big has always related to being an unintelligent jock. We are way past that time now. These figures are some of the smartest people in the world, and they can actually make a difference.

Jaylen Brown: Social Issues Speech at Harvard

Jaylen Brown is by far one of the most intelligent players in the league. Even before he was asked to speak at Harvard, it was clear this man is pretty damn bright. In 2016, some scouts did not want to draft him because he might be “too smart for basketball.”

Now a Boston Celtic and budding star, Brown has taken this notion and ran with it. Brown is bilingual and wants to learn three more languages by the time he is 25. He interned with Base Ventures, wrote a journal instead of staring at his phone, and took countless classes on poverty and activism. One of Brown’s favorite hobbies is chess. Simply put, this man has genius-level intellect that he does not shelve in the back of his head.

Because of all this and more, Brown was asked to speak at one of the most prestigious schools in the country, Harvard. He spoke of social and political issues in front of a crowd of a busy crowd. Some of the quotes from his speech are absolutely mesmerizing. Brown was asked if he considers himself an athlete or an intellectual, and this was his response.

“To be honest, I hate the dichotomy of it,” Brown said. “I hate the fact that it has to be one or the other. I hate the fact that there’s no possibility for both. In my reality, there is.”

This is not your average 21-year-old. He wants to be more than a basketball player, and that’s more than okay. One of Brown’s best answers was given after he was asked why he wants to change the society he escaped.

“If I didn’t have the counter space of basketball, where would I be? Just because I’ve escaped the barriers of society, why should I forget about the people who didn’t or haven’t or won’t? If I didn’t have the counter space of basketball, what would my reality be? How would I channel my energy? Would I do something positive with it? Would I resort to violence? These are real-life scenarios that kids in America wake up with every day.”

This needs to be framed and put in every business and school in America. Brown has admitted he was nervous for this speech. He felt overwhelmed because of the atmosphere and situation he was in. I have never heard Brown say we was nervous for a basketball game. It is time to admit that NBA players are not just basketball players. They can be so much more, and they are.

Jaylen Brown is one of the players that can actually make a difference. He will, without a doubt in my mind, be the NBPA President one day and I do not think he should stop there. He is one of the brightest minds in sports, and silencing him would be detrimental at the very least.

Let’s keeping asking Brown the hard questions, because he loves to answer them and might just have something important to say

Kevin Love: Players’ Tribune Article on Mental Health

Kevin Love stand up and take a bow. That took courage, man. You are so much more than a basketball player, and you showed us that.

Mental health is one of the most important things to me. I hold it close because so many people in my life are affected from it. Kevin Love just gave these people a chance to relate, and to help themselves dig out of the dead-end mindset.

Love has not had the easiest life in the league. In Minnesota he was called “fat” more times than I could count. He was having some of his best seasons so we probably assumed he was okay with this nickname. Because of his silence, no one was inclined to make change. See the theme here?

In Cleveland, Love has been ridiculed for his play as well as other things. He lost a lot of weight and looked truly healthy, but inside he was still fighting demons. You see, we all have problems. Some we speak about, and some we shelve in the back of our minds until we break.

These are not just professional athletes, they are humans. They are so much more than basketball players. Sometimes we think all they do is play their games and live lavish lives. It has become clear that they face everyday struggles. We, as people, can identify and relate to all these struggles. It helps us a lot knowing we have the same thoughts as someone on a higher stage. It makes us feel less alone, which can save lives. Kevin Love, thank you for having the courage to speak up and help others relate. You are so much more than a basketball player, and that’s more than okay.

People all over the world struggle with mental health. Kevin Love is on a higher platform, and he just gave all these people a chance to feel together. The courage and heart that this took will save lives. The message was clear, and we’re all so happy Love made his own available to the public. Cannot give this man enough credit.

Kevin Durant: Just Your Non-Average Average Dude

To a little lesser extent, Kevin Durant has related to all of us. This man has taken more heat from most. He was given the nickname “cupcake” for being “soft” after leaving Russell Westbrook to join the Golden State Warriors. A lot of people found it hard to like KD after that, but I think it became a lot easier. Durant used this platform to relate to us. He said it best in a Youtube comment.

NBA players are really just normal 20 and 30-year-olds. These dudes are closer to normal than we ever thought. Since this quote, Durant has returned to being a basketball idol. He has mended his relationship with Russell Westbrook. He has won an NBA Title. He won the league’s most valuable player in 2014 and delivered one of the greatest award speeches ever seen.

“The odds were stacked against us. Single parent with two boys by the time you were 21 years old. Everybody told us we weren’t supposed to be there. We moved from apartment to apartment, by ourselves. One of the best memories I had is when we moved into our first apartment – no bed, no furniture, and we just all sat in the living room and just hugged each other. We thought we made it. When something good happens to you – I don’t know about you guys, but I tend to look back to what brought me here. You waking me up in the middle of the night in the summertime, making me run up a hill. Making me do pushups. Screaming at me from the sideline at my games at 8 or 9 years old. We weren’t supposed to be here. You made us believe, you kept us off the street. You put clothes on our backs, food on the table. When you didn’t eat, you made sure we ate. You went to sleep hungry. You sacrificed for us. You’re the real MVP.” – Kevin Durant

There’s a good chance this quote has seen eyes that needed to see it. Durant is just one of us that grew up and made it big. He earned everything he received, and he made it because he wanted to, and more importantly, had to. In my eyes, Durant is a superhero. To himself, he’s just a normal dude. It’s been great to watch Durant evolve and create his own voice, because it is more powerful than any of his post moves or poster dunks.

In the end, all Durant did was change teams. He received a ton of backlash from it, and that’s when the real Kevin stood up. This man has multiple messages that have reached millions of ears. He is one of us, and he continues to show us that time and time again.

Durant is just one of the players that need to continue to stand and speak. He was quick to aid James when he was told to “shut up and dribble.” All of these guys; their normal dudes that are just on a higher platform. It’s time to listen to what they have to say, because it is most certainly important.

With all the trouble and turmoil we have seen in America recently, it’s time to admit we need help. Athletes help win championships, but they also might be able to help win this country back.

So I’m asking all the athletes to never, ever shut up and dribble. Your message is too important to the rest of us.