Los Angeles Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar criticizes some of LeBron James' actions

ByDave McMenamin ESPN logo
Monday, April 4, 2022

LOS ANGELES -- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar publicly criticized LeBron James once again Sunday, with the Los Angeles Lakers legend saying he believes the current Lakers star has a greater responsibility in how he conducts himself given his elevated platform.

"Some of the things he's done and said are really beneath him, as far as I can see," Abdul-Jabbar said before the Lakers' 129-118 loss to the Denver Nuggets. "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."

Abdul-Jabbar, on hand to present James' teammate, Carmelo Anthony, with the newly designed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Trophy to honor Anthony as the NBA's Social Justice Champion for the 2020-21 season, has already voiced his disappointment in James several times this season.

After James celebrated a late-game 3 in an overtime win against the Indiana Pacers by mimicking the dance that former NBA All-Star Sam Cassell made popular, accentuating his nether regions, Abdul-Jabbar was pointed in his disapproval.

"For me, winning is enough," Abdul-Jabbar said in a video posted through Substack, a subscription commentary website, in early December. "Why do you need to do a stupid, childish dance and disrespect the other team on the court? It doesn't make sense. GOATs don't dance."

Later that month, Abdul-Jabbar took aim at James once again after the four-time MVP shared a Spider-Man meme to his Instagram account showing three identical Spider-Man characters pointing at one another, affixed with the labels "COVID," "cold," and "flu."

Abdul-Jabbar wrote on Substack that the social media post was a "blow to his worthy legacy" because the "implication is that LeBron doesn't understand the difference among these three illnesses, even after all the information that's presented in the press."

Abdul-Jabbar referenced both of his prior critiques on Sunday in explaining his stance on the 19-year veteran.

"Absolutely, [I have] a higher expectation for him because he understands the issues and spoken to them quite forcefully and eloquently," Abdul-Jabbar said. "I think he has so much going for him in terms of respect and accomplishment and he shouldn't stoop to those moments."

James dismissed Abdul-Jabbar's criticism at the time.

"I don't have a response to Kareem at all," James said. "And if you saw the post and you read the tag, you're literally, honestly asking, 'Help me out?' Help me kind of figure it all out. We're all trying to figure this pandemic out."

Anthony, asked if he would facilitate a meeting for the two to discuss their differences, said that while he's not sure what the issue is, he would encourage a sit down.

"In our community we need those tough conversations, we need those uncomfortable conversations," Anthony said. "So if Kareem wants to sit down and talk, if Bron want to sit down and talk, I think that's a conversation that needs to be had. I don't think we need Kareem lashing out at Bron, and you haven't seen Bron say anything about Kareem. ... I think that would be a powerful conversation."

Abdul-Jabbar said his and James' in-person interactions have only been brief, but he would also welcome a further connection.

"If he would take the time, I definitely got the time," Abdul-Jabbar said. "I admire the things that he's done that have gotten all our attention. Sending a whole school to college? Wow. That's amazing. 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."

Despite that standpoint, Abdul-Jabbar welcomes James' pursuit of his NBA scoring record, which he has held for almost 38 years after he eclipsed Wilt Chamberlain's previous career scoring total.

"I'm all for him doing it," Abdul-Jabbar said. "There's no envy there. ... Just -- with the issues I was talking about, things that really affect the Black community, he should be careful. That's all I'm asking."

Abdul-Jabbar later tweeted on Sunday night that "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."

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