Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
LeBron James hasn’t responded to a shot about his intelligence from President Donald Trump, but Hall of Famer Michael Jordan and other fellow NBA players took to Twitter to defend him.
Trump took aim at James in a tweet on Friday night, days after an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon aired in which the Los Angeles Lakers star said he felt that Trump was “using sports to kinda divide us.”
“Sports has never been something that divides people,” James told Lemon. “It’s always been something that brings someone together.”
Let’s begin with what happened.
LeBron James, in an interview with CNN, said the following about Donald Trump.
“He’s trying to divide our sport, but at the end of the day, sport is the reason why we all come together,” James said.
When Lemon asked, “What would you say to the President if he was sitting right here?” James said “I would never sit across from him.” He added: “I’d sit across from Barack, though.”
To which the President responded
This prompted a strong response from the NBA community. Players, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, and Commissioner Adam Silver all showed support for LeBron and his right to take his stand.
The most notable of those voicing support for LeBron was the NBA’s original political activist, Bill Russell.
I’m not going to get into the specific back-and-forth between LeBron and Trump. Enough has been said about that.
However, I do want to address the “stick to sports” mentality and why it misses the point.
Whenever I’m told to “stick to sports,” it’s because I’ve said or tweeted something that is uncomfortable or it’s something the person disagrees with. “I follow you for the Celtics, not politics” is what I’m usually told.
The point, though, of taking stands about important social issues is not to avoid people’s comfortable sports bubble, it’s to invade it. When heads are in the sand, you sometimes have to dig to get your point across.
This is part of why “shut up and dribble” resonated so loudly in the NBA. A guy like LeBron James has made himself a significant fortune through basketball. He’s worked hard, become one of the best ever, and he’s turned his success into a growing LeBron empire. He’s employed friends and helped them succeed, and he’s given millions back to his community.
Becoming a star of this magnitude doesn’t require anyone to take a social stand, but doing so adds great weight to the message. LeBron James has a significant platform to affect social change.
Bill Russell did the same when he joined other sports titans in Muhammad Ali and Jim Brown to fight for civil rights. They used their star power to exert political pressure and help push the movement forward.
It’s a movement that is still happening. LeBron’s school is helping create opportunities for young children who might otherwise miss out on a quality education. He’s creating a pipeline for hundreds of kids to get to college, live good lives, and maybe pay it forward.
In doing so, LeBron, and any player making a difference with his fame and money, has a platform to let people know why a school like his was necessary in the first place.
Hearing that might be comfortable for a lot of you. Hearing about racial biases that prevent young children of color from equal opportunities cuts into our patriotic pride.
And here’s an important thing to keep in mind when you hear or read these things. It’s possible to love America while discussing the ways in which it is flawed and how it needs to be fixed. Athletes who stand up and say “we have a problem” are calling an issue to light so it can be fixed.
Humanity is in constant evolution, forever reacting to rights and wrongs and trying to figure out how to best proceed with society. How we make our money doesn’t preclude our participation in this process. I, a writer, am an American with my own unique reasoning for my reactions. LeBron James, a basketball player, is also an American with his own background and reasoning for his actions. You have yours as well.
The Boston Celtics employ 17 men to play basketball professionally. They may choose to voice their opinions as well. If they do, they will follow a proud tradition started by Bill Russell, supported by Red Auerbach, and carried on today. They will not, nor should not, shut up and dribble or stick to sports.
Yes, sports are an escape. I love that we can shut the world out for hours at a time and pour our emotional energy into something trivial like who is better and throwing a ball into a cylinder hanging 10 feet off the ground.
But some messages need to penetrate our safe little bubbles sometimes. It might make you uncomfortable or even angry, but that is pretty much the point. Sometimes you have to talk about these things, even if you don’t want to.
Now, on to actual basketball:
Page 2: ESPN is out with another low win projection
Given that Boston won 55 games with Gordon Hayward limited to five minutes total and Kyrie Irving missing 22 games last season, winning just 53 this season would probably be considered a disappointment. Part of the issue is that the Celtics’ point differential was more consistent with a 51-win team, meaning they start at a slightly lower baseline. Projections for Hayward and Al Horford are also conservative, giving Boston room to outperform them.
ESPN (insider): Projected 2018-19 records and standings for every NBA team
They do this every year and every year it comes out on the low side. They even admit in the article that they had some big swings and misses last season, especially with the Celtics and their 45 win projection.
They have Boston at 53.2 this year, which I think they’ll demolish. If they can stay relatively healthy, they’ll have too much firepower in a top-heavy conference. They do have the other two best teams in the East in their division, so that could knock a few wins off their total, but after that the Celtics should be able to knock out a bunch of wins.
I’m not going to get too worked up. Again, Kevin Pelton admits that there is too much randomness to make these projections hold up. The better thing to look at, in my opinion, is that they are only a couple of games behind Toronto. If Kawhi Leonard returns to form, they will be very good too, so having Boston up in that same realm, and five games ahead of the Sixers projection, is really the better indicator of how the season could play out.
I’m rooting for Jabari Bird. He’s a good basketball player and he seems to be a decent, hard-working guy. He’s earning his NBA opportunities. I’m happy he’s getting to enjoy some of the fruits of his hard work.