The first round of the NBA post season is coming to an end as a welcome, albeit brief, diversion from the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately another epidemic has persisted, as video of unnecessary police violence against an unarmed person of color has again shaken the country.
This time the footage comes from Kenosha, Wisconsin, a city far away from the site of the NBA bubble at Disney World in Orlando, Florida where the basketball courts and many of the jerseys and shirts worn by players and coaches read Black Lives Matter. This time it was multiple shots by a white policeman to the back of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old father of three.
If the tragic incident had occurred at the end of June, Blake’s name would have likely been one of the names represented on the back of the uniforms of the NBA players as is those of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. Still, the movement for respect for Black lives continues with great intensity and emotion with the shooting of Blake, ironically exactly three months after Floyd was murdered by a white policeman in Minneapolis.
Speaking bluntly, Milwaukee Bucks guard George Hill of the Milwaukee Bucks said, “We shouldn’t have came to this damn place,” visibly frustrated by another case of brutality.
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James tweeted, “And y’all wonder why we say what we say about the Police. Someone please tell me WTF is this? Exactly another black man being targeted. This sh*t is so wrong and so sad,” concluding, “Feel so sorry for him, his family and our people! We want justice!”
Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer repeated a recurring theme, a sentiment that just doesn’t seem to be embraced by many members of Congress who have yet to pass legislation that would resolutely hold police accountable for unjustified shootings. “We need to have change,” Budenholzer said. “We need to be better.”
The horrific point blank shooting of Blake overshadowed the commemoration by the NBA and the Lakers of what would have been Kobe Bryant’s 42nd birthday on Sunday, as well as some fabulous games. The best among them was the Dallas Mavericks’ thrilling 135-133 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday. The Mavs’ sensational 21-year-old forward Luka Doncic dropped a long step-back three-pointer as time expired, tying the best-of-seven series at 2-2 with Games 5 and 6 taking place Tuesday and tonight respectively.
Yet the cloud of police brutality and calls for racial justice will still echo in the NBA bubble.