City Sports Report

Brooklyn Nets bow to King James in front of Prince and Duchess

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver meet before the Cleveland Cavaliers game against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center to celebrate the new community partnership between the Royal Foundation and the NBA (photo credit NBAE/Getty Images)

It was an electrifying evening at Barclays Center in Brooklyn Monday evening as LeBron James, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers made their first appearance of the season.  On what would have already been a big night, James and Irving decided to make social statements before the game by wearing t-shirts emblazoned with “I Can’t Breathe” on the front in support of the family of Eric Garner, who lost his life over the summer as a result of a New York Police Department officer’s chokehold.  Brooklyn Nets players wore the shirts as well.  Simultaneously, there was a ‘Die In,” an event in which protesters lie down as if they were killed, scheduled in front of Barclays Center before the game.  Then there was a special couple in attendance as well.

No, it isn’t Jay Z and Beyonce, who were in attendance at the game, but The Royals, Prince William and his wife the Duchess of Cambridge were on hand to see the game.  As you can imagine, even behind the scenes, security was top priority and was heightened.

When Prince William and the Duchess took their seats in the third quarter, the game was close, but it must have inspired the Cavs, as a 61-61 game at the 7:14 mark of the third quarter quickly turned into a blowout, as the King and his teammates outscored Brooklyn 24-6 to take an 18-point lead into the fourth.  Dion Waiters led the way with 26 points, while Love notched a double-double with 19 points and 14 rebounds.  James scored 18 points and dished out 7 assists, while Tristan Thompson and James Jones scored 14 and 12, respectively, off the bench.

Nets head coach Lionel Hollins supported the decision of his players to wear the t-shirts that sent a social message.  “They should be political.  They should be about social awareness.  Basketball is just a small part of life.  If they don’t think that there is justice or they feel like there is something that they should protest, then they should.  That is their right as citizens of America, and I have no problem with that at all.”

Former MVP Kevin Garnett also talked about the ‘I Can’t Breathe’ t-shirts and how they came to wear them Monday.  “D-Will brought it to the guys that wanted to wear it and support the cause.  The ones that wanted to wear it wore it.  Obviously, there is a lot of stuff going on in the communities that we’re from and when you have the slogan ‘NBA Cares’, I think it’s more evident than now to show some support.  Obviously, we’re not on the front lines of this movement, but I think it’s important to give to these communities and support these communities.”

It has been an interesting week for the Nets, who defeated the 2014 NBA champion San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday in overtime, only to get their doors blown off on Friday, losing to the Atlanta Hawks by 23 points in a game that they trailed by as much as 32.  Next up for the 8-11 Nets?  A road game in Chicago against the Bulls, followed by a home visit from the Philadelphia 76ers Friday.  They then visit the Charlotte Hornets Saturday.

Mike Phillips, Hidden Beach recording artist and Jordan Brand ambassador performed the National Anthem before the game, and had the crowd and players cheering loudly after his performance.  I asked him if he had any extra motivation with the players supporting with the ‘I Can’t Breathe’ t-shirts.  “I felt that these athletes are not self-absorbed but are very sensitive and aware of what’s happening and not afraid to show the world. That alone made me happy and excited to play.”

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