On Sunday, LeBron James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to a historic victory in the NBA Finals.
Historic, as in the Cavs’ first championship in franchise history.
But what if he was doing other things in his time away from media spotlight?
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)
What if a seemingly superhuman basketball player of stature from an American town with notable social ills, spent his hours away from the public traveling the world, engaging in secret missions to maintain the balance of power around the globe?
His codename would be Xero, and he would be the most dangerous Black American in the world.
In 1997, DC Comics published a monthly comic book called “Xero”, written and created by Christopher Priest, influential past writer of Marvel’s “Black Panther”, co-founder of Milestone Media, the first Black-owned comic book company to have a deal with DC Comics, and writer of DC Comics’ upcoming “Deathstroke” series.
In the series, star basketball player Coltrane Walker, the power forward for the St. Louis Vipers, was the salvation of his team. His performance was incomparable, he never became exhausted on the court, and his celebrity status earned him a salary that was more than the rest of his teammates combined.
When he showed up to play, that is.
Most of the time, Coltrane led a secret life as Xero, a highly-paid killer for The United States, as a member of an intelligence agency without a name, considered a legend by the C.I.A., and with nearly unlimited authority given by the U.S. Attorney General and a Federal Judge.
Xero was a Closer, and the Closers were the people sent when targets had to be eliminated and no other person or team could get the job done. They were the boogeymen on planet-wide covert ops.
A superhuman with implants derived from extraordinary genetic materials, Xero’s body was juiced up with a super-steroid-like enzyme that gave him the by-product ability to walk through walls.
Basically, Xero could find you anywhere, walk through the walls, double-tap you with a silencer-enhanced pistol and two bullets, and exit without so much as leaving a footprint on the tiles in your bathroom or the floor of your living room.
But that wasn’t the kicker.
Every mission Xero went on, he was disguised as a White man with blonde hair.
So basically, LeBron James doing the James Bond while wearing the face of Chris Hemsworth.
Let that sink in, and settle.
Coltrane Walker, as Xero, killed people under the guise of the least threatening role in a good portion of global society, that of a male Caucasian blonde.
And during his spare time, he played basketball.
But he never did anything for his community, the people of East St. Louis. A city in turmoil, suffering from the by-products of crime and urban decay, but from the origins of a government that turns cities with people of color into low-income petri dishes, where people of color find easily available roads to crime, addiction, imprisonment, or an early death.
And why would Coltrane give a damn? He was trained by a covert organization to not only wear the mask and gloves making him a White man, but to act like such a person might act. To be disconnected from Black people, disinterested in them, and apathetic about their obstacles, their problems, their struggles.
He was forced to ignore his culture and his people, while covering up his flesh in layers of fabric and latex.
The day that Coltrane’s arrogance led to an innocent person being killed, that was the beginning of the journey of questioning his life, questioning his bosses, questioning himself. Coltrane’s journey led him on a path to lose everything he had gained.
Money. Fame. Power.
All of it.
That journey is detailed in the 12-issue “Xero” comic book series.
Creator Christopher Priest and artist/visionary “ChrisCross” are both Black men, both veterans of Milestone Media, Inc., the first major comic book publisher to create a universe of superheroes of color, and both informed by their life experiences to tell the tragic story of Coltrane Walker, a superhuman Black athlete/assassin with one foot in the grave.
Xero’s double identity was a metaphor for the assimilation narrative within the American Black man.
To be powerful, yet non-threatening. To achieve a different kind of power by abandonment of one’s cultural identity and connection to cultural peers. To be told the importance of global problems, while your own people are shot to death, jailed in unprecedented numbers, and living in deteriorating environments.
Priest and ChrisCross led the creative team on a compelling, socially-relevant thriller of a comic book that was ahead of its time in 1997, and right in line with our nation and world today.
Of course, LeBron James isn’t a secret agent, killing bad guys overseas while wearing the face of Chris Hemsworth, but for all of his interviews and media appearances, full transparency of a man like LeBron James may still elude us.
The same could be said for any Black man navigating his way up the ladder, in public scrutiny and entrepreneurial circles.
Such people may not have to kill on the road to success like the fictional Coltrane Walker, a.k.a. Xero, but their road is more complicated than we’ll ever know.