Fact Check

Is This a Real Video of LeBron James Listening to 'Rich Men North of Richmond'?

The claim spread as the highly debated viral song reached the top of Apple Music's Top 100 USA chart.

Published Aug 18, 2023

 (@kingjames/Instagram)
Image Via @kingjames/Instagram
Claim:
In August 2023, a video showed LeBron James listening to "Rich Men North of Richmond" by Oliver Anthony.

On Aug. 15, 2023, an online video purported to show NBA star LeBron James listening to "Rich Men North of Richmond" by Oliver Anthony. The claim spread as the song went viral, having reached the top of Apple Music's Top 100 USA chart at the time of this writing. The song has also been highly debated, with publications like Forbes, Rolling Stone and The Washington Post linking its success to the efforts right-wing influencers and pundits.

"Didn't have @KingJames supporting @AintGottaDollar and 'Rich Men North of Richmond' on my bingo card but here we are," wrote an X (formerly Twitter) user on Aug. 15, 2023. Attached to the post was a video that appeared to show James driving while listening to the song.

The claim wasn't true. While the video was authentic, the song James was listening to wasn't "Rich Men North of Richmond." Instead, he was listening to "This Place Hotel (a.k.a. Heartbreak Hotel)" by The Jacksons, formerly known as the Jackson 5.

We found the original, unaltered video posted to James' official Instagram account on Aug. 14, 2023:

The post's caption said:

Love being back in my backyard and just cruising around with no care in the world!!!! MJ going strong and stank face on!! #ThekidfromAKRON🤴🏾 Thank you to Life itself! 🫡👑 s/o @vintagebroncos for my sick ride too! 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

Upon noticing that the caption mentioned "MJ," we searched for songs by Michael Jackson that included the lyric, "This is heartbreak hotel," which we heard James singing along to in the video.

Upon searching, we found the audio version of "This Place Hotel (a.k.a. Heartbreak Hotel)" on The Jacksons' YouTube channel, which clearly matched the song James was listening to in the video he posted to Instagram:

We also found TikTok posts that correctly identified the song:

Because we found James was listening to a song by The Jacksons, not "Rich Men North of Richmond" by Oliver Anthony, we rate the video as Miscaptioned. We've previously fact-checked other claims about James, such as the rumor he had requested to be traded from the Lakers. 

Sources

Branigin, Anne. "Oliver Anthony and the 'Mainstreaming' of Conspiracy Theories." Washington Post, 18 Aug. 2023. www.washingtonpost.com, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2023/08/17/oliver-anthony-rich-men-north-of-richmond/.

Hudak, Joseph. "Right-Wing Influencers Just Found Their Favorite New Country Song." Rolling Stone, 11 Aug. 2023, https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-country/rich-men-north-of-richmond-oliver-anthony-conservative-country-song-1234805701/.

Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/p/Cv8T-LdOG4R/. Accessed 18 Aug. 2023.

Jackson 5, The | Detroit Historical Society. https://detroithistorical.org/learn/encyclopedia-of-detroit/jackson-5. Accessed 18 Aug. 2023.

Murray, Conor. "Controversial 'Rich Men North Of Richmond'—Oliver Anthony's Hit Song Championed By The Right—Explained." Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/conormurray/2023/08/15/the-sudden-success-of-rich-men-north-of-richmond-a-country-song-championed-by-right-wing-pundits-explained/. Accessed 18 Aug. 2023.

The Jacksons - This Place Hotel (a.k.a. Heartbreak Hotel) (Audio). www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zg5AIaduI1E. Accessed 18 Aug. 2023.

"Top 100: USA." Apple Music, https://music.apple.com/us/playlist/top-100-usa/pl.606afcbb70264d2eb2b51d8dbcfa6a12. Accessed 18 Aug. 2023.

"ZaireThinker on TikTok." TikTok, https://www.tiktok.com/@zairethinker/video/7267739892292291846?q=lebron%20james%20michael%20jackson&t=1692390982783. Accessed 18 Aug. 2023.

Izz Scott LaMagdeleine is a fact-checker for Snopes.

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