LeBron James Pays Tribute to Chadwick Boseman With 'Wakanda Forever' Salute Ahead of Lakers Playoff Game
By Zach Seemayer
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
LeBron James is honoring the memory of Chadwick Boseman. The NBA superstar took an opportunity to celebrate Boseman's groundbreaking turn as the Marvel superhero Black Panther ahead of Saturday's game.
Before the Los Angeles Lakers faced off against the Portland Trail Blazers, James -- along with his fellow teammates, who wore their Black Lives Matter shirts -- took a knee during the national anthem and crossed his arms across his chest, giving the "Wakanda Forever" salute.
The gesture originated in 2018's Black Pantheras the national salute of the African nation of Wakanda -- which Boseman's character ruled over as a benevolent king -- and has become a pop culture phenomenon since the film's release and worldwide success.
Boseman died Friday after a private yearslong battle with colon cancer. He was 43. The actor had never spoken publicly about his diagnosis, and the news came as a shock to many.
The Lakers went on to beat the Trail Blazers 132–121 in Game 5, and James spoke with reporters after the victory. He reflected on the pain of losing Boseman and his friend and Lakers icon Kobe Bryant in the same year.
"It actually felt like we had our black superhero and nobody could touch us. To lose that, it’s sad in our community," James shared. "To lose Black Panther & Black Mamba in the same year -- 2020 is the sh**tiest year, [at least] in my 35 years, there's not even a question."
Lakers’ LeBron James w/ tribute to Chadwick Boseman: “It actually felt like we had our black superhero and nobody could touch us. To lose that, it’s sad in our community. To lose Black Panther & Black Mamba in the same year — 2020 is the sh**tiest year.” pic.twitter.com/GiGbPA80Gp
Boseman's death was confirmed Friday in a statement posted on his social media pages. "It is with immeasurable grief that we confirm the passing of Chadwick Boseman," the statement shared. "Chadwick was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, and battled with it these last four years as it progressed to stage IV. "
"A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much. From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more, all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy," the statement continues. "It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther. He died in his home, with his wife and family by his side."