While LeBron James is just a week away from potentially becoming the NBA’s oldest scoring champion ever, he’s drawing criticism from one of the league’s all-time greats for some of his conduct off the court.
Speaking to reporters on Sunday at the unveiling of his Social Champion Trophy, Kareem-Abdul Jabbar commended James’ activism, before saying he should be “embarrassed” by some of his actions.
“I admire the things that he’s done, that have gotten all of our attention. Sending a whole school to college? Wow, that’s amazing. His thoughtfulness and willingness to back it up with his wallet, again, you have to give him credit for that,” Abdul-Jabbar said prior to the Los Angeles Lakers’ 129-118 loss to the Denver Nuggets.
“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.”
Abdul-Jabbar, who has advocated for the use of the COVID-19 vaccine throughout the pandemic, previously took issue with James in December after he posted a Spider-Man meme with “flu,” “cold” and “covid” all pointing at each other, insinuating they are all the same. Abdul-Jabbar called it “a blow to his worthy legacy.”
“The meme’s implication is that LeBron doesn’t understand the difference among these three illnesses, even after all the information that’s been presented in the press,” he wrote, before outlining “how knowing that difference might save lives, especially in the Black community.”
Despite saying he received the COVID-19 vaccine, James has stated he was reluctant, and said it was “not (his) job” to advocate for it.
Earlier in December, the Milwaukee Bucks and Lakers legend also criticized James for doing the “Sam Cassell celebration.”
Asked if he held James to a higher standard in reference to his previous criticism, Abdul-Jabbar responded “absolutely.”
“[I have] a higher expectation for him because he understands the issues and spoken to them quite forcefully and eloquently,” he said, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “I think he has so much going for him in terms of respect and accomplishment and he shouldn’t stoop to those moments.”
Abdul-Jabbar also said he wouldn’t mind meeting with James to discuss their differences regarding vaccine advocacy, according to Ben Golliver of the Washington Post.
James and Abdul-Jabbar’s legacies as basketball players are increasingly linked of late as James continues his chase to break Abdul-Jabbar’s record as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. James is currently in second place with 37,062 points, while Abdul-Jabbar leads with 38,387.
Despite James being on track to pass Abdul-Jabbar as soon as next season, the six-time NBA champion says he’s not jealous.
“I think it’s about time, I’m not gonna get jealous of LeBron, he’s earned it. To see him go through all of this and end up being the top scorer is a pretty neat thing,” he said.