February 23, 2024

LeBron James’ tone was passionate, yet weary. Another shooting, this time in Las Vegas, more innocent people dead, and the Lakers superstar seemed to recognize that his plea for gun control sounds like a broken record.

“It just goes back to what I said before about guns in America,” he said. “I think it’s such a longer conversation, but we keep dealing with the same story, this same conversation, every single time it happens, and it just continues to happen.

“The ability to get a gun, the ability to do these things over and over and over, and there’s been no change is literally ridiculous.”

A gunman opened fire Wednesday on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, campus, killing three people. The assailant was an academic in his 60s, according to people familiar with the investigation who declined to provide further details. He died in the shooting and at least one other person was injured.

The Lakers are in Las Vegas to play in the semifinals of the inaugural NBA in-season tournament against the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday at 6 p.m. at T-Mobile Arena, which is three miles from where the UNLV shooting took place. The game will follow the other semifinal between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Indiana Pacers at 2 p.m. The championship game will be held Saturday at 5:30 p.m.

Like many others in Las Vegas, James had family members reach out after the shooting. It was impossible not to reflect on one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history, the 2017 attack on the Las Vegas Strip, where a gunman killed 59 people and wounded more than 500.

“My brother from back home texted me and told me to be safe out here because he heard about the shooting at UNLV,” James said.

“It makes no sense that we continue to lose innocent lives, on campuses, schools, at shopping markets and movie theaters and all type of stuff. It’s ridiculous. The fact that we haven’t changed anything — it’s actually been easier to be able to own a firearm. It’s stupid.”

James, the most recognizable star in the NBA with more than 50 million followers on the social media platform X, has a history of commenting on shootings as well as on excessive force against Black people by police.

In 2012, James led the Miami Heat in a protest of the death of Trayvon Martin, a Black teen wearing a hooded sweatshirt who was shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Fla. The team posed for a photo wearing similar sweatshirts with the hoods pulled on their heads, their faces hidden.

In 2014, while playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, James and Kyrie Irving wore “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts before a Brooklyn Nets game in protest of the death of Eric Garner, a New York-area man killed by a police officer who put him in a chokehold.

In 2015, James stated his support for stronger gun laws following the third killing of a child by gunfire in Cleveland in a month.

“Obviously, you’re not going to be able to take every gun out, I don’t know how you can do that,” he said back then. “There’s so many around today. But if there are some big-time penalties or rules or regulations about carrying firearms, legal or illegal, people will second-guess themselves.”

In 2020, while playing for the Lakers in the Orlando, Fla., bubble prompted by COVID, James was alarmed by the shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old father, shot in front of his children by police officers while attempting to enter his car.

“I know people get tired of hearing me say it, but we are scared as Black people in America,” James said. “Black men, Black women, Black kids, we are terrified.”

And a year ago, James was outraged by the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that left at least 21 dead, including 19 children, saying in a tweet: “Like when is enough enough man!!! There are kids and we keep putting them in harms way at school. Like seriously ‘AT SCHOOL’ where it’s suppose to be the safest!”

James has been criticized on social media for speaking out against gun violence and excessive force. Fox New host Laura Ingraham famously told viewers that James should “shut up and dribble.”

He responded by producing a three-part documentary series on Showtime in 2018 called “Shut Up and Dribble” that chronicled the history of social activism and race in the NBA.

“We preach for the better of love and peace,” James said in 2020. “Hopefully we can get that at some point in our communities. Us as a nation. That’s what’s going to make us the greatest nation again. All peace and all love.”

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