In the waning lame duck days of his tenure in the Oval Office, lefty Barack Obama took the baton of democracy and handed it to the American people rather than to his successor with the burnt orange hair. He told the media not to be sycophants—a word that I admittedly had to look up: a person who acts servile towards someone important in order to gain advantage.
Obama was telling us to have a backbone, to stand in the face of the uncertainty that lies ahead.
The National Basketball Association is in a state of responsibility in the age of Donald Trump. A league that is predominately African American and more articulate, progressive, and intellectual than the average professional sport. The league is in midseason form as the tectonic plates shift, and there are basketball players who are most certainly not happy.
Here are seven NBA players who may stick their necks out there, and help the counterculture push from the left. This game right here is so much bigger than basketball.
#7 David West
A Warrior and elder statesman who is equal parts muscle and advocat. West was the most outspoken player in the league at the height of the Donald Sterling fiasco, bluntly tweeting about racism, slavery, and plantation politics that never really left America. Here he is visibly shocked still, the morning after the election:
#6 Joakim Noah
The enigmatic Knickerbocker has never been shy about expressing his beliefs. Noah is anti-war, and in October skipped a team dinner with US Army cadets; he won’t sleep in Trump hotels either. Living in the politically charged Big Apple, expect to see Joakim on the streets with picket sign in hand.
#5 Kenneth Faried
Faried is one of a handful of Muslims in the NBA, who may now face national registration or even deportation. Where Trump would deport him to—only God knows. Manimal is a passionate advocate of the LGBT community, as he was raised in a two-woman household by his mother Carol and her longtime partner Waudda. Kenneth is one of the nicest guys in the league, but he’s facing a presidency that doesn’t believe in him.
#4 Marcin Gortat
The Polish Hammer is one of the most verbose, well-read people in basketball. He had this to say even before Trump was elected:
If DT win! The first thing I will do when I get to meet him one day I will remind him about canceling visas for polish people.
— Marcin Gortat (@MGortat) November 9, 2016
#3 Joel Embiid
A parallel exists between Embiid and Trump in that both men are unfiltered in how they engage with society. Taboos, faux pas, and cultural no nos. Yet that’s where the similarities cease. Embiid is one of the most intelligent men in the NBA, mentally playing chess with the rest of us with each online post. He’s also the only man on earth brave enough to slap Boogie Cousins on the ass on national television. The Process won’t back down from anything.
#2 Dirk Nowitzki
The Dallas Mav has quietly been the the moral compass of the NBA for ages, even more so now with the retirement of Tim Duncan. Dirk is simply a good hearted man who puts a ball into a hoop. Rarely outspoken, he grew just miles from Nuremberg, Germany and the Nazi rallies of World War II. His grandparents’ generation was horribly touched by Hitler’s regime and the Holocaust that followed. Today, Dirk is married to an African American and they have biracial children in Trump’s America. The video below may be satire, but don’t be mistaken, Dirk will not stand quietly.
#1 Stephen Curry
It would take a lot for a star player in his prime to speak out on a political landmine like Trump. This isn’t 1968. Muhammad Ali ain’t around no more. Nonetheless, here is a Christian family man, both humble and golfing chums with Barack. Steph’s fandom has been in slow decline— Under Armour stock is not what it once was—and he’s no longer The Man on his own team. One lost story about Golden State is when TMZ shocked us with the Donald Sterling tape. The up and coming Warriors had a playoff game against the Clippers that night. Led by Steph, the Dubs had planned to warm up and—on live national television—walk off the court in protest. You may say Curry taking a stand against Trump is a long shot, but that’s exactly who and what Steph is.
These seven men and others have the willingness, earnestness, and bravery. These are tough times; these are tough men. This isn’t about republicans and democrats. This isn’t about business. This isn’t about basketball.
This is about the cloak of freedom that makes America great.