"I want the satisfaction. Not for myself, but for everybody else. I was raised off of [rappers] Snoop [Dogg] and [Tupac] and [Jay-Z] and Biggie [Smalls], and now I get an opportunity to be the inspiration around what all of these kids are looking up to? And for me to just sit back and not say s--- when a lot of my peers didn't say s---? It didn't feel right," James said on the debut episode of "The Shop," an HBO show featuring an unscripted discussion between James and other athletes and entertainers.
"At the end of the day, when I decided I was going to start speaking up and not giving a f--- about the backlash or if it affects me, my whole mindset was it's not about me," James added. "... My popularity went down. But at the end of the day, my truth to so many different kids and so many different people was broader than me personally."
James has repeatedly expressed his opinion on the state of race relations in America and shared public criticisms of President Donald Trump.
James' social stance was one of several topics covered on the first episode of "The Shop," which aired Tuesday night.
"I tell people this all the time: I really feel like a zoo animal. Like that's where life's gone for me," Beckham said. "You know, you used to take your kids to the zoo and we used to be like, you know, I want to see the lions or let's go see the lions. And you go out there, and the lions are laid out. You know what I mean? And it's like, why aren't they doing lion stuff, you know what I mean? Like I've got people who call out, 'Odell! Dance!' Like, I'm a show monkey or something. Like I'm a puppet, you know what I mean? And it's like to me, that doesn't feel good; but it's like, damn, that's what life became."
Golden State Warriors big man Draymond Green said James "found himself" over the past four years and that the Lakers' new star "should" believe he's the best player in the NBA. Green's Warriors have beaten James' teams in three of the past four NBA Finals.
"I think you should say that. I think you should believe that," Green said in reference to the idea that James is the best player in the NBA. "And you should definitely let the world know that. I think Bron over the last four years became LeBron James. And it wasn't nothing to do with winning, and it wasn't nothing to do with stats. He found himself. People didn't start to view him as they view him now, until he became that force, that man to say, 'I'm here.' I feel like for years he shied away from saying, 'I'm here.' And when he started to say, 'F--- y'all, I'm here,' that's when he became who he is, and no one would have ever said that until he did it himself."
Earlier in the conversation, James said he believes black athletes are held to a different standard than white athletes. He compared the potential reaction to a black athlete refusing to take a picture with a fan to the reaction to a white athlete refusing the same request.
"I believe if the greatest quarterback in the world, he's a white quarterback, if it's [Tom] Brady, if it's [Aaron] Rodgers, if it's [Peyton] Manning. And we're doing the same s---, the same exact s--- [refusing to take a picture with a fan]. I'm talking about the phone is on. We're like, 'Yo, get that f---ing phone out of my face. I'm with my family.' If we're out with our family and we say that s---, and somebody posts it, and if Aaron Rodgers or one of those guys say that s---, and they post it, somebody's going to be like, 'Hey, you guys should respect Aaron Rodgers.'"
Green, James and Beckham were joined by WNBA star Candace Parker, Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett, comedian Jon Stewart, rapper Snoop Dogg, rapper Vince Staples and comedian Jerrod Carmichael.
ESPN's Ian Begley contributed to this report.