As criticisms go for LeBron James in the last 24 hours, it was relatively mild.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, speaking to reporters Tuesday before handing out the first NBA Social Justice Champion Award (which is named after him), said LeBron would be “embarrassed” for some of his social media comments on COVID, as well as his big balls dance celebration this season.
It became a story because it was Kareem, the elder statesman of the league and not someone prone to the “get off my lawn” attitude of some former players. On Tuesday, Kareem went on SiriusXM NBA Radio and apologized to LeBron.
“All I have to say is this: I was there to give Carmelo Anthony the NBA Social Justice Champion Award. I’ve been talking to the press since high school, that’s 60 years of making statements. And I haven’t always gotten it right. And Sunday was one of those nights,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “It wasn’t my intention to criticize LeBron in any way. He has done so much for the Black community as well as for the game of basketball. We may not always agree, but I want to wholeheartedly apologize to LeBron and make it clear to him that I have tremendous respect for him. And if he can accept that, I’ll be very happy.”
Abdul-Jabbar had expressed the same sentiment on Twitter.
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. – @KAJ33
— Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (@kaj33) April 4, 2022
LeBron, missing the last two games due to a sprained ankle, has not spoken to the media since Abdul-Jabbar’s comments, nor has he posted anything about them on social media.
Even in the moment, Kareem’s comments did not seem bitter. Abdul-Jabbar talked about how much he admired the things LeBron had done in the community, but that he also held someone as intelligent and with the reach of LeBron to a higher standard. It was more like two activists of different generations not seeing the world through the same lens, but nothing more.
With LeBron on pace to pass Abdul-Jabbar for most points scored all-time in NBA history (the regular season version, he already did in season+playoffs), there will be a lot more interactions between the two in the coming year. Expect those to be filled with respect and carefully chosen kind words.