A six-second clip of James saying "I don't want nothing to do with white people" is authentic but completely divorced from its original context. The clip comes from a much longer 2018 video in which James was talking about his experience as a Black adolescent enrolling in a nearly all-white high school. In the full video, it's clear that James was using the statement to characterize how he felt as a teenager in that situation, not stating his feelings as an adult. In the same interview he said this attitude quickly changed and that he became friends with his peers by the end of the school year.
The pilot episode of Lebron James’ show “The Shop,” a talk show focused on frank discussions between the NBA star, businessman Maverick Carter, and various guests debuted on HBO in August 2018. In this first episode, James talked about his experience as a Black teenager from a predominantly Black neighborhood entering a mostly white environment as he started high school.
LeBron talks about the transition from his neighborhood to his catholic high school, being around all white people for the first time and finding out what a pantry is pic.twitter.com/BhIpxsC5xJ
— Rob Lopez (@r0bato) August 29, 2018
“I went to an all-white high school, Catholic high school, so when I first went to the ninth grade in the high school, I was all of a sudden like ‘I’m not f***ing with white people’. My whole, I was so institutionalized, growing up in the hood, it’s like ‘they don’t f*** with us, they don’t want us to succeed’ […] So, I’m like, ‘I’m going to this school to play ball, and that’s it. I don’t want nothing to do with white people, I don’t believe that they want anything to do with my—it’s me and my boys, we going to high school together and we here to hoop.’ So that was like my initial thoughts and my initial shock to, like, white America when I was 14 years old, for the first time in my life.
It took me a little to adjust to it. It’s hard to balance. Because I’m a kid that plays this game at such a high level. You’re in your mind like, are they happy that I’m here because of who I am, or because the conversations I can have with them
Carter, James’ long-time friend and business partner who also played on James’ basketball team at St. Vincent–St. Mary High School, added:
“Sports and basketball it’s the most unifying thing. By the end of the year, all of us were best friends. Our black friends from the hood were coming. His white friends were coming and we were just all having a great time.”
In June 2020, as many NBA players made statements in support of nationwide protests against police brutality and racism, a brief quote from this interview was taken out of context and shared in the form of a meme:
In May 2021, a few days after James made a statement about a 16-year-old girl who was shot and killed in Columbus, Ohio, a six-second clip from this episode of “The Shop” started to circulate on social media:
Lebron James "I don't want anything to do with white people." pic.twitter.com/p4FEI42VPZ
— 🤩🤩 Edwin 🌟🌟 (@EdwinVcity) April 25, 2021
This clip, as noted above, is missing context. James is not describing his current attitude toward white people or diversity. This six-second clip comes from a longer comment in which James discusses what it was like for a Black teenager from a Black neighborhood to attend a mostly white high school. In the full clip, James nods in agreement as his high school friend and business partner notes that while it was an odd experience at first, they quickly found themselves friends with their peers.