Kareem Abdul-Jabbar goes off on Kyrie Irving: ‘He reveals his lack of awareness of how history works’

Jonathan Sherman
5 Min Read

Brooklyn Nets star guard Kyrie Irving is at the heart of yet another off-court controversy thanks to the decision he recently made to promote an anti-Semitic film on social media.

Now, Irving has continued to deflect and try to explain away his decision to promote the film through his characteristically cryptic, and often unintelligible, interactions with the media.

Perhaps most importantly, Irving has yet to definitively state that he does not hold anti-Semitic beliefs against Jewish individuals.

In response, NBA elder statesman and Los Angeles Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has come forward to chastise Irving for his harmful actions. He added that he does not believe Irving will ever truly change because he has insulated himself with “fame and money” and “yes-people.”

“Irving has been defiant about his postings,” wrote Abdul-Jabbar to his Substack. “You can read his long, rambling, at times contradictory defense here. Mostly he reveals his lack of awareness of how history works. It’s not an all-you-can-eat buffet from which you can pluck just the dishes you like without any understanding of the context.

“His inability to understand why his posts are news can be seen in this statement: ‘There’s things being posted every day. I’m no different from the next human being, so don’t treat me any different. You guys come in here and make up this powerful influence that I have (and say) you cannot post that. Why not? Why not?’ If he really thinks someone with millions of followers spouting hate speech is the same as Jim in accounting posting on Facebook, then he really is out of step with reality.

“The Nets finally forced Irving to acknowledge the damage he’s done and donate $500,000 to groups opposing hate speech. In his statement you can almost hear his arm being twisted: ‘I oppose all forms of hatred and oppression and stand strong with communities that are marginalized and impacted every day. I am aware of the negative impact of my post towards the Jewish community and I take responsibility.’ But there was no explicit apology—which tells us everything about what he really believes.

“Honestly, there’s little hope that he will change because he’s insulated by fame and money and surrounded by yes-people. There is no motivation to learn how to distinguish propaganda from facts. All that’s left is for the world to decide how it should respond to him.”

Of course, anti-Semitism has unfortunately been at the center of celebrity news recently due to comments that were recently shared by hip-hop star and fashion designer Kanye West. Like Irving, West has recently issued statements that echo many common anti-Semitic stereotypes.

It is an unfortunate circumstance for the NBA and is just the latest incident in which Irving has made headlines for the wrong reasons.

NBA fans will remember well that Irving was forced to miss a huge portion of Nets games during the 2021-22 regular season due to his refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Though Irving has tried to portray himself as someone who is highly educated, deeply spiritual and well-informed, he often ends up sounding like someone who spends much of his free time watching conspiracy theory videos online.

That is what Abdul-Jabbar seems to believe based on his scathing response to Irving’s most recent statements.

At this point, it is hard to figure out what the Nets should do with Irving. He’s certainly hurting the team with his statements off of the court. More importantly, he’s becoming not only an embarrassing figure to the Nets to deal with, but also for the entire NBA.

With Abdul-Jabbar joining the growing list of individuals publicly criticizing Irving, it will be interesting to see if the Nets and NBA change their current stance that Irving will not be fined or suspended for his actions.

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Jonathan is a freelance writer, filmmaker, and passionate fan of the NBA. In the past Jonathan has covered politics, entertainment, travel, and more. He is a proud contributor of Lakers Daily.