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Sport Mike Lupica: LeBron James is always willing to stand up and be heard

23:45  06 june  2020
23:45  06 june  2020 Source:   nydailynews.com

Paul Pierce says LeBron James and the Miami Heat underachieved

  Paul Pierce says LeBron James and the Miami Heat underachieved Paul Pierce's LeBron James hate tour continues.Earlier this week, Pierce said that James wasn't a top five player ever in NBA history which, uh, alright. I guess? I'm not sure how one doesn't consider eight straight trips to the NBA Finals and three championships including one against a 73-9 team a top 5 resume, but whatever.

Drew Brees started it by saying this the other day: “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States or our country.” He was addressing the possibility of NFL players once again kneeling during the playing of the national anthem this season, in light of everything that has happened in America since a white Minneapolis cop put his knee on George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes and killed him in broad daylight. And by the way? Brees has voiced this opinion before. It’s what he thinks, whatever he’s saying now.

UNSPECIFIED - MAY 16: In this screengrab, LeBron James speaks during Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020 on May 16, 2020. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images for EIF & XQ) © Getty Images UNSPECIFIED - MAY 16: In this screengrab, LeBron James speaks during Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020 on May 16, 2020. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images for EIF & XQ)

So Brees, all-time great quarterback, has been hit from all directions on this, for being tone deaf, mostly for being dead wrong. He sounded like one of the old white guys who own NFL franchises. Or the president.

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There is no need for Brees to be defined only for that remark, defined by the worst moment of what has mostly been a fine public life away from the football stadiums. We have to stop acting as if one stupid statement — and it was stupid, as many times as Brees has apologized since making it — automatically gets you a flogging and then some kind of life sentence in the public square of social media.

This is what can happen, though, so often with celebrities conditioned to the world hanging on every word, and on every subject except beach erosion.

But this isn’t about him today. It is about LeBron James, and the way he went right after Brees when he heard about his comments. Others did the same thing, of course, from all sports and all over the map. Michael Jordan, who has hardly ever had anything to say over nearly 40 years on the great stage of American sports, announced Friday he and his brand will donate $100 million over the next decade to organizations devoted to racial justice after the death of George Floyd. Twenty-eight of 30 NBA teams came out with some kind of statement about George Floyd in the immediate aftermath of his death, a notable exception being the Knicks.

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“As companies in the business of sports and entertainment, however, we are not any more qualified than anyone else to offer our opinion on social matters,” New York Knicks owner James L. Dolan wrote in a memo obtained by ESPN, one sounded as if it had been composed in a safe bunker of his own at Madison Square Garden.

No one expected to find Dolan on this. You can always find LeBron on the big things.

Video by FOX Sports

He is not just one voice from sports, just the biggest, because he is the biggest star in American sports. Here, by the way, is his initial response on Twitter after Brees said what he said, before the Saints quarterback began to scramble better than he ever has on a football field:

“Wow man. Is it still surprising at this point. Sure isn’t! You still don’t understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee? It has nothing to do with the disrespect of our (flag) and our soldiers (men and women) who keep our land free. My father-in-law was one of those who fought as well for this country. I asked him a question about it and thank him for all the time for his commitment. He never found Kap(‘s) peaceful protest offensive because he and I both know what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong. God bless you.”

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You never have to look for him. He is always right there. He always stands up, even when phonies from Cable America like Laura Ingraham of Fox News tell him to shut up and dribble. Predictably, Ingraham defended the right of Brees, white quarterback, to voice his opinions. In the process she illustrated once again that if talking out of both sides of her mouth were an Olympic event, she’s Michael Phelps.

Since “The Last Dance” documentary, we have once again revved up the debate about Michael and LeBron, which one really is the greatest basketball player of all time, now that we know who gets the best documentaries. Debates like these are always the lifeblood of being a sports fan. DiMaggio or Williams or Wilt or Russell or Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays. Brady or Montana or whatever quarterback belongs with Brady in the quarterback debate.

In the end, they are different players. It’s like comparing apples and Chevrolets. And they are different men. Michael conducted himself the way he did when he was still a player, and socially distanced himself as much as possible from social issues.

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LeBron has never done that. He has honored the platform he has because of his immense talent, and the success he’s had as the greatest player of HIS time; does this even now as he tries to win an NBA championship with a third team. He has been a patron saint for his hometown of Akron with the LeBron James Family Foundation. He has started schools and received the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award from the NBA. He has repeatedly spoken out against this president for dividing the country. He was heard when Michael Brown was shot in Missouri and when a kid named Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in Florida and when Eric Garner died on the streets of Staten Island after he was the one saying “I can’t breathe.”

And he stood for Colin Kaepernick when Kaepernick took a knee as his own statement about social injustice and got called an “SOB” by Donald Trump in the process, along with all those who knelt with him. He has made mistakes and false steps along the way, because everybody does. But in his time on the stage, he has exhibited the same kind of conscience about justice and race — race always being the third rail in America — that Arthur Ashe once did.

This does not make LeBron into Jackie Robinson or Rosa Parks. But he does not get enough credit for standing up the way he does and speaking up the way he does. He is not the only bold-faced name from sports doing this. Again: He is the biggest name. He has been famous since high school. But once he got to the NBA, he has done as much for good causes, been righteously on the right side of the important issues, as much as any American professional athlete of his lifetime. And mine.

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As the sports world once again remembered how peaceful Kaepernick’s protest had been when he took a knee, as Drew Brees weighed in on that and once again confused dissent with a lack of patriotism, LeBron once again stood up.

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BASEBALL’S NUMBERS GAME, THE END OF THE KNICKS SEASON & THE AGING STARS OF TENNIS …

I think the owners and players in baseball need to get just slightly closer than the 114 games the players want and the 50-game schedule about which the owners are talking.

And while this might seem slightly off-point, but is there some way that Scott Boras’ surgical mask can somehow be sound-proofed?

Frankie Isola, my old New York Daily News pal, pointed out the other day that the Knicks will now go 10 months without playing a game, and my question was this:

What’s the bad news?

Just so you know, if major championship tennis does resume this year, Roger Federer will be 39 by the time that it does.

And Serena Williams will be about to turn 38.

Yankee fans don’t know much about Tony Clark as a labor negotiator.

But they sure wish he’d hit more against the Red Sox in October of 2004.

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HONORING PETE HAMILL ON HIS 85TH BIRTHDAY

Finally today, big stuff: The great Pete Hamill turns 85 this week.

He is merely one of the giants in the history of the newspaper business in his city, and the life of the city, and its literature most of all.

He is a child of Brooklyn who has moved back there in the later innings and is writing a book about that with this wonderful title: “The Old Country.”

He was a columnist at the old New York Post and later became the editor there.

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We started writing columns at the Daily News the same day, about a hundred or so years ago.

And I will tell you today what I have told you before:

As wonderful a writer as he is and has always been, he is a better friend.

He was a friend to Jimmy Breslin and the old boxing champion Jose Torres and to Robert F. Kennedy, and was one of those people who convinced Kennedy to run for the presidency in 1968.

He was there at the Ambassador Hotel in June of that year when Kennedy was shot to death by Sirhan Sirhan.

It was Pete, after Sept. 11, who so eloquently compared New York City to a gallant boxer, gave us the image of the city first getting up to one knee on Sept. 12th and Sept. 13, then slowly getting all the way back up, tougher than ever.

He is a champion of his craft, of generosity, and a thing he himself calls an old-fashioned thing called grace.

Once again today, I will say to him what he so often says to me when we are ending another conversation, about books or newspaper or the Mets or Jackie Robinson or the country or the world:

“Abrazos.”

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Related slideshow: Looking back at Michael Jordan's career (provided by Yardbarker)

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