Its largely been forgotten now, but there was a time when the likes of Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan were requested to boycott the NBA Finals.
The NBA under David Stern was not conducive to social justice causes the same way it is today. Adam Silver has taken on the mantle of making the league the most progressive among all North American sports leagues. The way the commissioner has backed social justice causes.
There were many protests against racially motivated violence even before the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement. The NBA, however, would stay out of these political issues. Even though the likes of Bill Russell and Kareem had political stances of their own, they weren’t backed by the whole league as is the norm today.
The time when role player Craig Hodges tried to convince MJ and Magic to boycott the NBA Finals
Craig Hodges, a role playing guard who led the league in 3-point percentage thrice and won 3 successive 3-point contests, was on the Bulls roster in the 1991 NBA Finals.
Hodges always wanted to voice his opinion against injustice. And he felt that a strong statement from the Michael Jordan led Bulls and the Magic Johnson led Lakers would make a massive impact. Thus, in June 1991, before the first game of the NBA finals between the two teams, Hodges tried to convince MJ and Magic that both teams should stage a boycott.
This idea was triggered from the fact that Rodney King, an African American, had been beaten brutally by four white policemen in Los Angeles three months earlier.
— Donald McRae (@donaldgmcrae) April 20, 2017
Hodges wanted the Bulls and Lakers to sit out the opening game, so “we would stand in solidarity with the black community while calling out racism and economic inequality in the NBA, where there were no black owners and almost no black coaches despite the fact that 75% of the players in the league were African American”.
Michael Jordan told Hodges he was “crazy” while Johnson said: “That’s too extreme, man.”
“What’s happening to our people in this country is extreme,” Hodges replied.
This is in stark contrast to the united action taken by Giannis and the Bucks this year in the bubble.