Former Knicks center Enes Kanter “couldn’t believe it” when LeBron James said he wouldn’t advocate for the COVID-19 vaccine despite being fully vaccinated.
“When I heard it, I was very disappointed, and it’s ridiculous,” Kanter said in a recent interview with CNN. “Obviously, LeBron James, he’s one of the faces of the league, and he should be the first one to go out there and say, ‘Listen, everyone. I got the vaccine, and I’m encouraging everyone — my community, everyone, basketball fans, non-basketball fans, sports fans — are just going out there and get this vaccine so we can save other lives.’”
James’ comments came on Sept. 28 during his Lakers media day interview when he confirmed that he was vaccinated but added that he had “skepticism” before ultimately deciding to receive the vaccination. He also said that it’s “not my job” to serve as an advocate for others to likewise become fully vaccinated.
“We’re talking about individuals’ bodies,” James said. “We’re not talking about something that’s political or racism or police brutality, things of that nature. We’re talking about people’s bodies and well-being. So I don’t feel like, for me personally, that I should get involved in what other people do for their bodies and their livelihoods.”
The NBA will not require vaccinations for players, according to ESPN, though 95% of players have reportedly been vaccinated as of Sept. 30. Protocols for unvaccinated players include daily testing, and those in New York and San Francisco could miss home games — and game checks — due to stricter vaccination requirements locally.
“I hope [James] can educate himself about this vaccination and inspire and encourage other people around him,” Kanter said.
Kanter signed a deal in August to return to the Boston Celtics, the team he played for that traded him to the Portland Trail Blazers last November. He spent three seasons in New York with the Knicks — arriving via the acquisition that sent Carmelo Anthony to the Oklahoma City Thunder — but eventually fell out of the starting lineup and was waived in February 2019.
Kanter appeared in 72 games with the Trail Blazers during the 2020-21 season, making 35 starts and averaging 11.2 points and 11.0 rebounds per game.