Thursday, August 11, 2022
Denzel Washington Inspired LeBron James to Strive for Greatness
By Lauren A. Jones, Contributing Writer
Published December 4, 2018

Denzel Washington speaks to LeBron James and the Lakers as a part of the team’s “Genius Series” at the UCLA Health Center Training Facility in El Segundo, Calif. (Courtesy Instagram @kingjames)

Two-time Oscar award-winning actor Denzel Washington spoke to the Lakers as part of the team’s speaker series after suffering one of their toughest losses of the season in Denver.

Three-time NBA champion LeBron James noted that as a young kid from Akron, Ohio, there were not many local figures to look up to, with the exception of drug dealers. When he sought out positive role models growing up and looked for inspiration, it included entertainers like Washington, Will Smith, and Dave Chappelle.

“I grew up watching these guys,” James stated. “I grew up admiring these guys, admiring their craft, wanting to be like certain characters they portrayed either in TV shows or movies or in standup.”


Washington was the latest guest in the speaker series, called the “Genius Series,” which was curated by Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka. The series was inaugurated last season to promote the importance of “sacrifice, preparation and releasing negativity”.

This season’s two guest appearances have both coincidentally come after team losses. The first was an appearance by rapper and Pulitzer Prize winner Kendrick Lamar, who spoke to the Lakers after the team suffered a 128-119 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers earlier in the season.

“People are frustrated and angry after those types of games, so you bring in someone like Denzel, and he talks about the things he talks about, it does a nice job of lifting spirits,” said Lakers coach Luke Walton.

Washington’s message was simple yet, impactful. His speech emphasized being humble, being good to people, and being grateful for the blessing having the ability to help others according to Walton. These are all things that James has continued to embody throughout his career. One of his more recent philanthropic endeavors was opening the I Promise School in his hometown, to have a more direct positive influence on the core of inner-city kids who attend. 

“Thank God I was able to be inspired by people that were doing it the right way and not the wrong way,” said James.


James, a four-time league MVP, often tags his social media posts with the hashtag Strive for Greatness.

“When I wake up, I want to be better than I was today and I don’t stop, I don’t want to stop,” explained James. “It’s not just all about basketball obviously; it’s about everything that I do in life.”

Washington is a longtime Lakers season ticket holder and can regularly be spotted courtside at Staples Center catching a Lakers game. 

James shared that some of his top Denzel Washington movies include “Man on Fire,” “Remember the Titans,” “John Q,” “Training Day”. He added “He Got Game,” since, “Everybody wanted to be Jesus Shuttlesworth growing up. For me, personally, I did.”

Categories: Basketball | Sports
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