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It should have been easy to say what Kyrie Irving was doing was wrong. I’m grateful LeBron James finally did

On Friday night, LeBron James became the first active NBA player to say something out loud that should have been so simple: What Kyrie Irving did was wrong.

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Los Angeles Lakers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

How many things do you vividly remember from when you were in sixth grade?

If you, like me, don’t possess the famously photographic memory of one LeBron James, the answer to that question is probably “very little.” But one of the precious few crystal-clear memories I do possess from those days still hits me from time to time — and has been doing so with increasing frequency this week: It’s of my paternal great uncle Abe, telling me about the cruelties he experienced at the hands of Nazi soldiers alongside his brother, my grandfather — as nearly every other member of their family was systematically murdered —while imprisoned in concentration camps during the Holocaust and not all that much older than I was at the time.

It’s not the type of thing an 11-year-old easily forgets.

Like Kyrie Irving has done in his own misguided and dangerous, but seemingly earnest way, Uncle Abe told me this story as I was attempting to learn about my roots for an oral history report at school, a project that asked us to interview an older relative in our family to learn about where we came from and what life was like generations before. It was the first interview I ever conducted, and while the easy narrative throughline here would be to say that I always knew I was going to be a journalist afterwards, that is also not true. I had many other career goals before winding my way to this current path. But knowing that history has always reminded me of how strong my family was, and given me strength to persevere when I felt hopeless, because I know my ancestors fought through worse.

It also makes it hurt when people claim those stories never happened.

It’s all made this last week painful, overwhelming and heartbreaking all at once. In all honesty, I’ve been in a depressive funk, exhausted by the arguments and the takes over Kyrie Irving sharing a virulently antisemitic, Holocaust-denying documentary, reluctant to even engage publicly just because this is so raw and painful. And let’s face it, trying to change anyone’s mind on the internet ever increasingly feels like a fool’s errand anyway, especially in the fresh new hellscape that is Twitter under new ownership.

But after being inspired by my friend Mirjam Swanson beautifully inserting her own personal family history into her O.C. Register column, and simultaneously angered and strengthened by the pain in my guy Aaron Larsuel’s voice as he pleaded for even just one member of the NBA community to call this hateful bullshit what it is on this week’s episode of “The Hook,” I felt increasingly up to writing... something. I just wasn’t sure what.

And then LeBron spoke out, becoming (I believe) the first NBA player to do so on the record and in their own words:

Some highlights, from Kyle Goon of the OCR:

“I believe what Kyrie did caused some harm to a lot of people,” James said after the Lakers’ 130-116 loss to the Utah Jazz. “And he has since, over the last – I think it was today, or yesterday – he apologized. But he caused some harm and I think it’s unfortunate. … 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 condone it.”


“Me personally, I don’t condone any hate to any kind to any race,” James said. “To Jewish communities, to Black communities, to Asian communities. You guys know where I stand. And that’s part of the reason why I didn’t air ‘The Shop’ episode, why we kicked that out of the archives. Because it was hate conversation going on there. And I don’t represent that. There’s no place in this world for it.”


“I love the kid – he’s not even a kid no more. He’s 30,” James said. “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.”

Again, this should not have been so hard, or have taken so long, but for me, and probably many others, reading it felt surprisingly good. To hear someone from this league and sport I love so much support me and the many others who were hurt by all the silence, to have the pain of antisemitism becoming a both-sides’d sports debate show topic and the harm caused by whataboutism-fueled arguments on social media acknowledged, to say what before this week I would have thought would have been so easy: Antisemitism and holocaust denial are wrong, regardless of intent, and hopefully Kyrie can learn from his missteps and grow from this.

But given that the NBA, NBPA and Nets initially declined to even use Irving’s name while vaguely denouncing hate in their original toothless statements days prior to his eventual suspension, and the fact that James is the first player I have seen admit he’s aware of all this and say the obvious — it’s wrong! — it evidently was not as easy to do so in the current league climate as one would think from the outside. For that reason, I am thankful LeBron decided to speak out and call it like it is, and I know I’m not the only one.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.

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