Despite his apology, Abdul-Jabbar has dunked on James previously. Last December, Abdul-Jabbar, who ranks No. 1 on the NBA’s all-time scoring list right ahead of James, criticized the star twice publicly.
That month, James shared on Instagram a meme that compared COVID-19 to the common cold and flu, writing, ” Help me out folks.” Abdul-Jabbar, an advocate for coronavirus vaccines, later wrote in a Substack essay that James’ post marked “a blow to his worthy legacy.”
Also in December, Abdul-Jabbar criticized James for performing a “Big Balls dance” after scoring against the Indiana Pacers. The NBA considered the move an obscene gesture and fined James $15,000.
“For me, winning is enough,” Abdul-Jabbar said at the time in a Substack video. Why do you need to do a stupid, childish dance and disrespect the other team on the court? It doesn’t make sense. GOATs don’t dance.”
Hours after his latest criticism of James went viral, Abdul-Jabbar seemed to walk back the remark. “Today a reporter asked me a question about Lebron James and I regret my off-handed response which has been blown out of proportion,” he tweeted. “For years I’ve expressed my deep admiration and respect for LeBron as a community leader and athlete. That hasn’t changed and never will.”
Abdul-Jabbar said in a longer statement, “LeBron is still the daunting hero I described two years ago [in a Sports Illustrated essay]. He’s still a major force in improving lives in the Black Community. He’s still one of the greatest basketball players in history. He’s still a man who has earned the overwhelming admiration of millions. And every day he goes out and proves why he deserves that admiration.”
He continued, “On occasion I have chided LeBron when I thought he was dropping the ball when it came to supporting the community. But I did so in the spirit of a loving older brother offering guidance, whether wanted or not. So, when I said that he has done some things he should be embarrassed about, that wasn’t a slam or a barb or even a finger wag, it was me recapping some of what I’d said in the past.”