A shoutout to that waiter who made my kid’s day by being LeBron James’ cousin, LeBron Jones

OPINION: Meeting LeBron James’ fake cousin checked off a bucket list item my son didn’t even know he had.

LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers walks off the court following the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at Footprint Center on April 05, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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My son Roman loves LeBron James. While people (read: the “Michael-Jordan-is-the-one-and-only- basketball-GOAT-and-LeBron-needs-to-get-at-the-end-of-the-line” people) were going out of their way to pan “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” my household had that movie on repeat. For the record, it isn’t like the first one – 1996’s “Space Jam” – was that great. It was a fun, random movie with all of our favorite basketball players at the time, cartoons and Michael Jordan. “A New Legacy” was the same thing, modernized for 2021 and featuring LeBron James in the starring role. It was no better, or worse, than the original. Nostalgia can get you every time. 

Anyway, “A New Legacy” turned my son – already a basketball player in the making – into a LeBron stan. From that moment forward, he was all basketball everything. I bought a LeBron James jersey for him for Christmas, and he put it on immediately. He has Space Jam underwear and bedsheets. He would tell folks that he was LeBron James. And even though the Lakers didn’t make the playoffs, he proudly wore his Los Angeles Lakers LeBron James jersey to school as if they’d just won the championship. It probably helps that I’m a Lakers fan, too, but I think he cares way more about LeBron than he does about my personal fandom.

With that said, he’s also 6-years-old and while certainly a fan, he doesn’t quite know exactly what LeBron James looks like should he run across him in these streets. Such was the experience recently. My wife loves to take the kids to Washington, D.C.’s Yards Park. There is a huge greenspace next door to an ice cream shop. So the kids eat ice cream, run around kicking and throwing balls, sometimes hitting other people…you know, living their best lives. 

On this latest trip to Yards Park, my wife took the boys to a Detroit-style pizza place in the vicinity called Emmy Squared. Now, to know my son Roman is to know that he is the most gregarious of my children. He loves to be the center of attention, and he loves that you know he loves being the center of attention. He will talk to almost anybody, and if you mess with his family members, despite his smaller frame, he has the heart of a 6’4” NFL player and will let you know that you need to back off. He will also ask random strangers questions or yell out things at folks whose attention he’s trying to get. He’s a real card.

For the record, I wasn’t present for this escapade, but once I saw pictures I understood the entirety of the story. Let us continue.

Apparently, when the waiter came to the table to take the order for food, Roman looked at him and asked him the only reasonable question he could muster: “Are you LeBron James?”

Why did he ask this? Again, once I saw the picture I got it. The waiter had a beard straight out of the “LeBron James Lookbook for Beards,” that is if such a tome existed. The only other comparative characteristic was that he was Black. I’ll work on Roman, don’t worry. But apparently this waiter – whose name I don’t have – but shouts out to you, Black Man, thinking quickly, told my son that he wasn’t LeBron James, but LeBron Jones, kinda like LeBron James’ cousin.

 And that was all Roman needed to fill his heart with joy. You see, LeBron James’ cousin, LeBron Jones, was a wonderful second place for Roman. I heard that others in the vicinity of their table got quite the tickle out of the whole ordeal. Roman couldn’t wait to get home to tell me about it because, well, if you meet LeBron James’ cousin, LeBron Jones, you tell people about it.

On the way to school, Roman didn’t want to be late because he wanted to tell everybody that he met LeBron James’ cousin. He told me he was going to tell everybody in every class. He was that excited by it. I went along with it, too. My wife took a picture of Roman with LeBron Jones and Roman asks to see the picture all of the time. I’m praying he doesn’t ask to frame it, or we’ll have a random Black man on a wall in our house. 

Either way, shouts out to that brother, who thinking quickly on his feet, made a 6-year-old’s week (probably month) and gave my son new and reinvigorated LeBron James energy. In our house, LeBron James is the GOAT.

Panama Jackson theGrio.com

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest) but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said “Unknown” (Blackest).

Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download here.