Kareem Abdul-Jabbar criticizes LeBron James, says he should be 'embarrassed'

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FILE - Former NBA player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar listens during sports and activism panel. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar listens to a question during a 2017 sports and activism panel. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, speaking before the Lakers hosted Denver on Sunday afternoon at the unveiling of a social justice trophy bearing his name, again criticized LeBron James for actions he said “were beneath” James and said the Lakers star should be “embarrassed” by some of the things he’s done.

Abdul-Jabbar wrote critically earlier this season about James’ handling of COVID-19 in public comments supporting Andrew Wiggins’ vaccine hesitancy and about James’ use of a meme equating COVID-19 to the common cold and the flu.

He said the criticism was born out of high expectations for James’ activism and how he’s addressed issues of inequality “quite forcefully and eloquently.” While he’s met James, the two men have never spoken about activism or Abdul-Jabbar’s criticisms.

“I wouldn't mind doing it if he would take the time. I definitely got the time,” Abdul-Jabbar said of speaking with him. “I admire the things that he's done that have gotten all our attention. Sending a whole school to college? Wow. That's amazing. His thoughtfulness and willingness to back it up with his wallet, you got to give him credit for that.

“So 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.”

James was unable to play Sunday against the Nuggets because of ankle soreness. He’s listed as day to day.

James declined to directly address Abdul-Jabbar’s earlier criticism about his use of the Spider-Man meme in regards to COVID-19.

“No, I don’t have a response to Kareem at all,” James said on Dec. 28. “And if you saw the post and you read the tag, you’re literally, honestly asking, ‘Help me out?’ Help me kind of figure it all out. We’re all trying to figure this pandemic out. We’re all trying to figure out COVID and the new strains and the flu, I think people forgot about the flu. People literally forgot about the flu during these times. Like, that’s still going around. This is flu season. So people have forgotten about the flu. People have forgotten about common colds. That happens. Especially with a lot of our kids that are in school. My daughter is in first grade so a lot of these kids are getting common colds and getting the flu.

“But, no. I don’t have any response to Kareem. At all.”

The inaugural Social Justice Champion Award went to Carmelo Anthony in 2021. Sunday, the league unveiled the trophy, which Abdul-Jabbar inspired and helped design.

Abdul-Jabbar also took issue with James’ celebration in Indiana, which earned a $15,000 fine from the NBA for being “obscene.”

“I think he has so much going for him in terms of respect and accomplishment and he shouldn't stoop to those moments,” he said.

Abdul-Jabbar would later send an email to The Times elaborating on his comments about James.

James is currently chasing Abdul-Jabbar for No. 1 on the league’s all-time scoring list, trailing him by 1,325 points.

“I'm all for him doing it. There's no envy there,” Abdul-Jabbar said. "I just — with the issues I was talking about, things that really affect the Black community, he should be careful. That's all I'm asking.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.