Basketball Hall-of-Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has recently called out current Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James for some of his online behavior. Still, now he says he regrets some of that criticism.
Abdul-Jabbar had some more things to say about James during a visit to Crypto.com Arena ahead of giving his teammate, Carmelo Anthony, the NBA’s Social Justice Champion Award named after him. Anthony is the first player to receive the award.
“Some of the things he’s done and said are really beneath him, as far as I can see. Some of the great things that he’s done, he’s standing on both sides of the fence almost, you know? It makes it hard for me to accept that when he’s committed himself to a different take on everything. It’s hard to figure out where he’s standing. You’ve got to check him out every time.”
He also made sure to highlight some of the good things James does off the court, like his, I Promise School and other philanthropic ventures.
“His thoughtfulness and willingness to back it up with his wallet, you got to give him credit for that. So I’m not throwing stones. I just wish he wouldn’t — you know, some of the things he’s done, he should be embarrassed about. That’s just where I’m coming from.”
Immediately after the sports network shared his latest comments, Abdul-Jabber hopped on Twitter to say he regretted what he told the reporter.
“Today, a reporter asked me a question about Lebron James, and I regret my off-handed response, which has been blown out of proportion. For years I’ve expressed my deep admiration and respect for LeBron as a community leader and athlete. That hasn’t changed and never will.”
Abdul-Jabber followed his tweet with a lengthy statement explaining his LeBron James critiques saying his criticism was in the spirit of tough love and guidance.
Over the years, I’ve been asked to comment on and write about LeBron James. A couple years ago, I wrote an article for Sports Illustrated about LeBron as a Sportsperson of the Year in which I said: “[T]his generation couldn’t do any better in the hero department than LeBron James. Part of being a hero is to have both the modesty to feel unworthy of such a heavy word and the strength to accept the responsibility that comes with others looking to you to be that hero. What is a hero but someone who stands up for those who can’t? Who embodies our cherished ideals of sportsmanship: fair play, hard work, and compassion? That pretty much describes the LeBron James I’ve watched and come to know since he was the No. 1 pick in the 2003 NBA draft and was named Rookie of the Year.” In the two years since I wrote that, my respect and admiration has only grown for LeBron as I watched him champion worthwhile causes while maintaining his status as an elite athlete. As he closes is on my all-time scoring record, I have been a cheerleader urging him on, happy to pass the mantle to someone so worthy as an athlete and a person.
LeBron is still the daunting hero I described two years ago. He’s still a major force in improving lives in the Black Community. He’s still one of the greatest basketball players in history. He’s still a man who has earned the overwhelming admiration of millions. And every day he goes out and proves why he deserves that admiration.
On occasion I have chided LeBron when I thought he was dropping the ball when it came to supporting the community. But I did so in the spirit of a loving older brother offering guidance, whether wanted or not. So, when I said that he has done some things he should be embarrassed about, that wasn’t a slam or a barb or even a finger wag, it was me recapping some of what I’d said in the past. The Sports Illustrated article was an homage to LeBron for winning the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award for his role in social activism. So, when I think he may be veering from the path that made him win that award, I’ll mention it. I’m a journalist. That’s what I do. But I believe LeBron is strong enough and gracious enough to understand that I have only love for him in my heart.
LeBron James has yet to comment. We just hope this leads to a much-needed conversation between the two NBA legends.
Photo: Sean M. Haffey / Getty