ESPN’s NBA crew wants Enes Kanter to keep his valid criticisms of LeBron James behind closed doors. On Friday night, sideline reporter Cassidy Hubbarth delivered a report detailing Kanter’s numerous gripes with James, including his new shoes ripping James’ $30 million per year business relationship Nike.
“Enes Kanter has spoken out on human rights issues in China for quite some time, and has been critical of league partner Nike and its ties to China,” Hubbarth said. “Yesterday on social media, Kanter tweeted photos of the shoes he’s wearing tonight, which attack LeBron James’ lifetime partnership with Nike. On the shoes, he has money over morals, which he directed towards James in regards to labor practices in China.”
Hubbarth also mentioned Kanter’s criticism of James for not promoting the COVID-19 vaccine. LeBron said he wouldn’t advocate for it, despite being vaccinated himself.
“Kanter also criticized LeBron this summer on CNN saying James is not a strong enough advocate for the Covid-19 vaccine. James has not responded to Kanter’s criticisms so far this season,” Burke said.
James dismissed Kanter Friday night, saying he doesn’t want to “give too many people my energy.” Yet, Mike Breen and Doris Burke called out Kanter for not approaching LeBron privately.
Who needs a PR team when you have ESPN?
“You would hope he would go to LeBron James directly as well, and say, ‘Hey listen, I feel this way about this. What do you think?,” Breen said. “I’ve come to learn in over 30 years covering the NBA, one of the great things is you get to know these players as men and husbands and fathers, and when they have an issue that they’re serious about, I want to listen to what they have to say, and there’s a way to go about it. Enes Kanter feels strongly about this. His way of doing it is the different than the way most people do it.”
Burke followed up with her own full-throated defense of James:
“That was my first thought: ‘Did you reach out to LeBron James first?,’” she said. “And oh by the way, I don’t know how much business the United States does in terms of multibillion-dollar corporations, not to mention other NBA players who have a relationship with Nike — AD, KD, Kyrie, you name it. You single out one guy?”
While Burke is correct to point out the omnipresence of Nike, she almost certainly knows why Kanter is singling out LeBron: he’s the league’s biggest star. But when China sanctioned the NBA for general manager Daryl Morey’s support of democracy protests in Hong Kong, he sidestepped the issue.
Kanter is the rare NBA figure who’s calling out James for his hypocrisy. That makes league partners shiver.