LeBron James used pregame warmups on Monday night as a platform to deliver a powerful statement.
Before tipoff at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the Cleveland Cavaliers star donned a black t-shirt with the words “I Can’t Breathe” — a tribute to Eric Garner, the 43-year-old unarmed black man who died in August when a New York City police officer placed him in a fatal chokehold.
“It’s not a Cavs thing,” James said before the game, ESPN reported, which the Cavaliers won handily over the Brooklyn Nets. “It’s a worldly thing.”
Several other players involved in Monday night’s game — including Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and Brooklyn’s Kevin Garnett — also wore t-shirts emblazoned with Garner’s chilling words, a protest against a grand jury’s decision to not indict the cop responsible for the death.
Those players followed the lead by Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose, who wore an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt prior to Saturday’s game against the Golden State Warriors.
In James, Garnett and Rose, three former NBA MVPs have donned a shirt in solidarity with Garner.
As Monday’s star-studded affair played out inside Barclays Center, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge watched James score 18 points in the Cavaliers victory, a protest raged outside the arena.
Those demonstrators, many of whom wore the same “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts as the players, staged a die-in prior to the game.
James hasn’t shied away from activism throughout his illustrious career. He and his former teammates on the Miami Heat protested the 2012 killing of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin.
James was also one of the more forceful voices in the league earlier this year against former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and, more recently, he offered his thoughts on the fatal police shooting of unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
It’s earned James plaudits from a fellow NBA legend.
“But you see LeBron. LeBron is a great example of doing a wonderful job,” former Los Angeles Lakers great Magic Johnson said last week. “When this first came out, when you think about everything that he stood up for — the Donald Sterling thing, when that mess happened, just now with these young people being shot down unarmed, he’s been right out front, so I’ve got to give him a lot of credit. If he’s out front being the best player, then the other guys usually follow the best guy.”