NBA

LeBron slams Saints QB Brees over comments about kneeling during anthem

By Sports Desk June 03, 2020

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James called out New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees for his lack of understanding for the reasons players kneel in front of the flag during the United States national anthem.

Brees said on Wednesday he still does not approve of people kneeling and takes offence to the gesture, which he believes is disrespectful to those in the military.

James was then quick to point out that Colin Kaepernick began kneeling in 2016 to protest against police brutality and racial inequality, and his action had nothing to do with those who fight and serve.

"WOW MAN!!" James tweeted, with a facepalm emoji. "Is it still surprising at this point. Sure isn't! You literally still don't understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee?? Has absolute nothing to do with the disrespect of [the flag] and our soldiers [men and women] who keep our land free.

"My father-in-law was one of those men who fought as well for this country. I asked him question about it and thank him all the time for his commitment. He never found Kap peaceful protest offensive because he and I both know what's right is right and what's wrong is wrong!"

James' tweet came in response to remarks Brees made earlier in the day in an interview with Yahoo Finance.

"I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country," Brees said when asked about players kneeling.

"Let me just tell what I see or what I feel when the national anthem is played and when I look at the flag of the United States. 

"I envision my two grandfathers, who fought for this country during World War II, one in the Army and one in the Marine Corp. Both risking their lives to protect our country and to try to make our country and this world a better place. So every time I stand with my hand over my heart looking at that flag and singing the national anthem, that's what I think about."

The 41-year-old does see a connection between the sacrifices made by those in the military and those fighting for civil rights, but still feels the flag should be respected.

"In many cases, that brings me to tears, thinking about all that has been sacrificed," he said. "Not just those in the military, but for that matter, those throughout the civil rights movements of the '60s, and all that has been endured by so many people up until this point.

"And is everything right with our country right now? No, it is not. We still have a long way to go. But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart, is it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together, we can all do better and that we are all part of the solution."

Brees' comments come a day after Blackout Tuesday, a day established to observe, mourn and bring policy change in the wake of the death of George Floyd, the African-American who died on May 25 while in the custody of police in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  

Since Floyd's death, people have been protesting in several American cities, calling for an end of police brutality against minorities, and the NFL and the league's teams are addressing ways of supporting and fighting for justice.

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    The number one overall draft pick, who had 25 points in his first game, went on to win the Rookie of the Year award in 2003-04 and has been at the forefront of the league ever since.

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    The Finals MVP award was not introduced until the 1969 series when Chamberlain was already in his 30s – by then an NBA champion with the Philadelphia 76ers and a four-time MVP – but he was belatedly recognised as he guided the Lakers past the New York Knicks three years later, winning their first title since moving to Los Angeles.

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    Shooting less regularly, there were still flashes of Chamberlain's old magic as he remarkably had the NBA's highest all-time field-goal percentage across a season (minimum 500 attempts) with 72.7 per cent made. Only DeAndre Jordan in three straight seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers – between 2014 and 2017 – has shot above 70 per cent.

    The Lakers will certainly hope James does not go down the same path, having been backed to play into his 40s by LA assistant Jason Kidd and former Miami Heat team-mate Dwyane Wade.
     

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    Abdul-Jabbar won his first Finals MVP with the Milwaukee Bucks the year before Chamberlain's but, despite collecting two more rings in the interim, had to wait until 1985 to be hailed again as the postseason's outstanding player. Kareem outperformed Lakers team-mate Magic Johnson – 12 years his junior – as they beat the Boston Celtics and he became the oldest NBA Finals MVP.

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    Abdul-Jabbar's production actually improved in the season he turned 39 – scoring 23.4 points per game, up from 22.0 – but that would be the last year he averaged at least 20.0, ending a record 17-season streak that has since been matched by Karl Malone and James, who can surpass that mark in 2020-21.

    The Lakers kept winning as Kareem's numbers understandably dropped, though, taking the title in 1987 and 1988 – led by Johnson and James Worthy.

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    MICHAEL JORDAN - 1998 Finals MVP, aged 35

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    The statistics when MJ did appear in 2001-02 – he made 53 starts in 60 regular season games – did not make for great reading. The five-time MVP ranked worst in the league for three-point percentage (minimum 50 attempts) at 18.9 per cent, making just 10. He was 41st of the 48 players who attempted at least 1000 field goals that year at 41.6 per cent.

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    If Abdul-Jabbar provides the best example of how a superstar should treat the final years of his career, LeBron appears well placed to similarly profit.

    With the arrival of Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans last year, James' game changed to incorporate a second elite scorer, becoming a passer as he logged a career-high 10.2 assists per game.

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    And his 34.6 minutes per game – a career-low – represented the fewest in league history while scoring 25.0 points and 10.0 assists.

    With a gruelling next season just around the corner, James is likely to play even fewer minutes again but, alongside Davis, still looks primed to make the difference when it matters most.

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