“No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being black in America is — it’s tough,” James said. “And we got a long way to go for us as a society and for us as African-Americans until we feel equal in America.”
Officer Norma Eisenman, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Police Department, said that the act of vandalism at James’s home was being investigated as a hate crime and that the slur had been painted over by the property’s managers. The Plain Dealer of Cleveland reported that James’s wife and three children were at the family’s home in Bath Township, Ohio, at the time of the episode.
“My family is safe,” James said, adding: “Obviously, you see I’m not my normal energetic self. It will pass. That’s fine. I’m figuring it out. I’m thinking about my kids a lot.”
If nothing else, James said, he saw the episode as another opportunity to address an issue that is important to him.
“If this incident that happened to me and my family today can keep the conversation going and can shed light on us trying to figure out a way to keep progressing and not regressing, then I’m not against it happening to us again,” he said. “I mean, it’s as long as my family is safe.”
Over the last several seasons, James has used his platform as the league’s most visible superstar to voice opinions on matters that do not necessarily involve what he does on the court. His increasing willingness to speak his mind has set him apart from stars of previous eras, including Michael Jordan, to whom he is often compared as a player.
James, a four-time N.B.A. most valuable player, won the league’s annual J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award last month in connection with his efforts to improve educational opportunities in his hometown, Akron, Ohio.
On the court, of course, James remains as fearsome as ever. Through the first three rounds of this year’s playoffs, he averaged 32.5 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists per game while shooting 56.6 percent from the field. Now he confronts the Warriors, again, after losing to them in the finals in 2015 and then stunning them last year to give the Cavaliers their first N.B.A. title.
“I will be as focused as I can be on the job at hand tomorrow,” James said Wednesday. “But this is a situation where it just puts me back in place of what’s actually more important, and basketball’s not the most important thing in my life.”
The appearance of the slur on James’s home, in West Los Angeles, was reported at 6:44 a.m. Wednesday, said Officer Aereon Jefferson, a spokesman for the Police Department. He said it had been painted over by the property’s managers by the time that officers arrived a short while later.
Jefferson said that the episode was still being investigated and that the police did not know who first reported the slur.
At one point during Wednesday’s news conference, James said that when he learned of the slur, he thought about the mother of Emmett Till. After her 14-year-old son was lynched in 1955, she insisted there be an open coffin so people could see for themselves the brutality of the murder.
“She wanted to show the world what her son went through as far as a hate crime and being black in America,” James said.
So on a day when James might normally have been talking about the star players he will be battling on the Warriors, he was instead citing one of the more infamous moments in American history. However familiar Thursday night will be when the Warriors and the Cavaliers finally play Game 1, and James takes on Stephen Curry and Company, Wednesday ended up having a far different feel.
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