LeBron: Ken Griffey Jr. Makes Baseball Cool

Jordan Cohn
June 19, 2020 - 4:02 pm

Different players have epitomized different aspects of the game of baseball over time.

Babe Ruth epitomized pure power. Rickey Henderson epitomized devastating speed. Jackie Robinson epitomized courage, perseverance and several other intangibles. Derek Jeter epitomized leadership. Even the fictional Pablo Sanchez, whose history was revealed by RADIO.COM Sports' own Tim Kelly, epitomized the ultimate underdog.

But Ken Griffey Jr. was the epitome of something different. Something that doesn't show up on the stat sheet and isn't necessarily going to be included on a Hall of Fame plaque or in the history books. It's not something you can say had a direct correlation to his performance. There aren't any awards or honors associated with this Griffey-esque trait.

What Ken Griffey Jr. epitomized was "cool." He was so freakin' cool. A pretty cool guy in his own right emphasized this in the trailer for "Junior," the MLB Network documentary about Griffey Jr. that will air Sunday, June 21 at 8:00 pm ET.

"He makes the game of baseball cool," James said, discussing his view of the Mariners' and Reds' centerfielder as a young sports fan (via Jared Wyllys of Forbes). Sure, there are some other athletes whose judgment of "cool" I might value over LeBron. Allen Iverson might be one. Shaq and The Rock (pre-"Tooth Fairy") are a couple others who come to mind. But LeBron is pretty high up in the hierarchy.

And he's absolutely right, in this case. The backwards hat. The crazy athleticism. The smooth, confident, care-free swing. Who else could hit absolute bombs so nonchalantly?

Even a Hall of Fame induction announcement wasn't a serious enough occasion for the constantly smiling Griffey to wipe off his boyish demeanor.

There are guys who are definitely following in his footsteps. Juan Soto comes to mind as a player whose "coolness" is just off the charts, especially in his somewhat odd stare-down maneuver that throws opposing pitchers off. Maybe it's just his performance, but Mike Trout also just seems like a cool guy despite his relatively low profile with the media. This one is definitely slanted toward my Philly bias, but I always thought Cliff Lee was just really cool. I mean, come on! Look at the play around the :53 mark.

The documentary will highlight Griffey's career and presumably highlight him and his father's relationship, seeing as it will be released on Father's Day. The famous father-son duo is listed in our 12 greatest, and you can read about some of this year's prospects who have had MLB stars as fathers here.

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