Opinion | LeBron’s take on NBA-China was disappointing

Can you describe Empress Wu’s rise to power in full detail until her death in 705 A.D.? Were you aware that Hong Kong served as a center of international trade and haven for Chinese refugees during its time as a British colony? Did you even know that Hong Kong was occupied by Japan during the Second World War?

I would guess that the majority of the American population wouldn’t know the answers to these questions – even the ones expressing support to civilians in Hong Kong. Thus, likely neither did Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, in the moment on Oct. 4 when he tweeted a now-deleted image of the slogan “Fight For Freedom Stand With Hong Kong.” There are many layers to the region’s fight for democratic dissent from China. Yet Morey didn’t need a degree in history to understand the levels of violence the Chinese military has been enforcing upon protestors.

It is thus interesting in the way that global basketball icon LeBron James expressed criticism of Morey on Oct. 14, essentially saying he didn’t believe the National Basketball Association (NBA) general manager was “educated” about the situation. Was the Los Angeles Lakers forward hoping Morey would give a three-hour-long dissertation on the conflict to the media?

James, in particular, has rightfully earned his influence after a history of powerful social activism and commentary on issues such as white supremacy and police brutality. But for a man that has gone directly head-to-head with our President, James’ choice of words here undermined his established political image.

Pictures surfaced of protestors in Hong Kong burning and stomping on James’ No. 23 jersey in response to his comments. Considering the NBA draws an incredibly large portion of its fan base from China, that’s not exactly the best look for the face of the league. However, James did further explain his perspective.

“So many people could have been harmed, not only physically or financially, but emotionally and spiritually,” he said on Oct. 14. “We do have freedom of speech, but there can be a lot of negative things that come with that too.”

James may have appropriately been considering the potential danger his peers were in or any repercussions that could come the way of protestors; Chinese President Xi Jinping did say that attempts to divide China would end in “bodies smashed and bones ground to powder.”

However, it’s frustrating to draw these conclusions out of James’ supporting statements.

“So many people,” he said.

What people? What does “negative things” signify? Here’s hoping one of the greatest and most important athletes of our time provides a more in-depth, specific, informed take on the China controversy rather than carefully hoisting up generalities like one of his pump-fake three-pointers.