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LeBron James

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Last Saturday, during the Chicago Bulls’ pregame warmup against the steaming-hot Golden State Warriors, Derrick Rose wore a T-shirt displaying the words “I Can’t Breathe.” It was a reference to the recent non-indictment of a NYPD police officer in the choking death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, in Staten Island. Garner’s last words were “I can’t breathe.”

“That night we talked about how we supported [Rose],” teammate Tim Flowers toldThe New York Times. Rose and Flowers were childhood friends who grew up together on the South Side of Chicago. Flowers added that “wearing the shirt was an important thing to do,” calling it “a responsibility.”

Rose’s effort to bring awareness to the ongoing issue of unarmed black men dying at the hands of police officers trickled down to the rest of the league, with many players following suit over subsequent nights. Even Kobe Bryant, who is often ridiculed for not publicly stating his opinions on major issues, partook in the demonstration along with some of his Lakers teammates.

But this is now LeBron James’ league, and there isn’t a name that permeates our sports experience like his does. Both James and Kyrie Irving also decided to make a statement, wearing “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts over their jerseys prior to their conference matchup against the Brooklyn Nets.

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