Lakers News: LeBron James Weighs In On Kyrie Irving’s Recent Behavior

The Lakers All-Star has officially taken a stance regarding his former Cleveland teammate’s bizarre recent behavior.

Los Angeles Lakers All-Star forward LeBron James has spoken out against Brooklyn Nets All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving’s recent decision to share an Amazon link to a film promoting hurtful antisemitic lies and nonsensical conspiracy theories, including that the Holocaust, during which over six million Jewish people were murdered for their religion, was a fabrication. Irving tried to skirt around issuing an actual apology in subsequent media conversations and press statements, but his seeming lack of contrition about the whole episode compelled Brooklyn to suspend him, without pay, for “at least” five games. Per Sarah Eisen of CNBC, Nike also opted to suspend their relationship with Irving.

To his credit, Irving did almost immediately apologize on Instagram after the suspension decision, though he also seemed to assert that he still believed some of the movie’s core tenets. Based on the language in the Nets’ announcement, it still seems possible the seven-time All-Star, 30, is never permitted to return to the franchise again. With Irving finally, explicitly apologizing, there at least seems to be some room for growth, change, and reflection, and his having a real NBA future seems a bit more possible.

Though many NBA stars have been relatively quiet when it comes to denouncing Irving for his promotion and subsequent defense of dangerous falsehoods, James did the right thing in speaking up and unequivocally rebuking the film and its lies. Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times filmed James’s postgame presser, in which he discussed the Irving business:

“Me personally, I don’t condone any hate of any kind,” James said in part. “To any race. To Jewish communities, to Black communities, to Asian communities. You guys know where I stand… There’s no place in this world for it. Nobody can benefit from that and I believe what Kyrie did caused some harm to a lot of people. And he has since, over the last — I think was today or yesterday — he apologized. But he caused some harm and I think it’s unfortunate. But I don’t stand on the position to harm people when it comes to your voice or your platform or anything. So it doesn’t matter what color your skin is, how tall you are, what position you’re in. If you are promoting or soliciting or saying harmful things to any community that harms people, then I don’t respect it… I don’t know the direction, the steps that he takes, but he’s apologized for what he said and I hope that he understands that what he said was harmful to a lot of people. And we as humans, none of us are perfect, but I hope he understands what he did and the actions that he took are just harmful to a lot of people.”

For now, James is one of the few voices among current NBA players to have actually taken the time to so directly address this issue. He has often been a leader on important social causes, and it is frankly very heartening to see him once again be so vocal in addressing this. Former Lakers Shaquille O’Neal (along with his “Inside The NBA” colleagues Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, and Ernie Johnson) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar number among some of the retired athletes who also made a point to decry the book and Irving’s behavior.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN provided a full transcript of James’s statements:

Per Shams Charania of The Athletic, there had been rumblings that mutual interest was brewing between Irving and the Lakers, and that the team may have been hoping to sign the embattled point guard outright as a free agent in the summer of 2023. After this most recent Irving controversy, it seems unlikely that (a) he’ll fetch much money at all as a free agent next year or (b) many teams are particularly interested in him. Irving is still a heck of a scorer, though how much he actually contributes to winning at this stage remains an ongoing question.

Irving played with James on the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2014-17. Along with Kevin Love, the All-Stars led their club to three consecutive Finals appearances, winning in 2016. With Irving out of the fold for the 2017-18 season (he forced a trade out of town, winding up with the Boston Celtics), Cleveland returned to the NBA Finals anyway, though the team was promptly swept by the Golden State Warriors, at the time led by Irving’s now-Nets teammate, Kevin Durant.

The film (and the book upon which it is based, which was subsequently adapted into the film) has become incredibly popular following the Irving promotion. Charania and his The Athletic colleague Mike Vorkonuv report that the Nets and the Anti-Defamation League sent a request to Amazon leadership that they either contextualize the lies at the heart of the film and book or remove them from the platform entirely.

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