A new poll shows that White sports fans and Black sports fans vastly differ in their support of Lebron James.
LeBron was once asked by CNN if race played a role in the post-Decision backlash. His response seems rather benign when extracted from the frenzied context of late 2010: “I think so, at times. There’s always a race factor,” James said, stating what appears to be objective fact when you dig into the numbers. His dry “at times” assessment of course provoked outrage. LeBron was right, though.
In ESPN’s poll results, we can see that The Decision markedly hurt LeBron’s popularity across the board. The impact wasn’t felt equally across demographics, though. Before the Decision, 14.80 percent of White NBA fans listed LeBron as their favorite player. The next season, that number nosedived to 8.56 percent. The next season, 6.83 percent of White NBA fans also listed LeBron No. 1, less than half his initial White fanbase.
According to our most recent data, LeBron rode multiple championships to a 9.69 percent mark among White fans — still far below his 2010 apogee. Within this demographic LeBron’s the rare player who was far more popular before winning two championships.
The reluctance of White fans to embrace LeBron again is the principle reason his overall popularity lags behind what it was with the Cavs. It’s easy to come up with theories on why this is so, and harder to prove those theories. Other demographics have been far more forgiving, though.
Over the 2009-10 season, 21 percent of Black NBA fans listed LeBron as their favorite player. That figured dropped to 16.5 percent the season after The Decision. A steep drop, to be sure, but look at LeBron’s popularity since. The season of his first title, as he lost more traction with White fans, LeBron crept back up to 19.25 percent among Black fans. Our most recent figures have him at 23.5 percent among Black fans, higher than his pre-Decision popularity.
We can see similar results among Hispanic NBA fans. LeBron’s up in that demographic to 12.41 percent, a slice above his Cavs peak of 10.73 percent.