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NBA postpones games in response to Jacob Blake shooting: How we got here

An empty court and bench are shown following the scheduled start time of an NBA playoff game Aug. 26
The court is empty after the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take part in their scheduled playoff game against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
(Kevin Cox / Associated Press)

The ripple effect from Jacob Blake’s shooting by Kenosha, Wis., police reached the NBA’s Disney World campus in Florida soon after cellphone footage of the shooting began circulating on social media this weekend, but it led to a historic moment Wednesday when the Milwaukee Bucks refused to play their playoff game against Orlando.

Wednesday’s events, which soon included the postponement of all three games on the league’s playoff slate, followed days of impassioned statements by players and coaches around the league about the relationship between Black people and police in the United States.

It also came more than two months after numerous NBA players questioned whether they wanted to take part in the league’s restart at all, out of concerns it would draw attention away from the reckoning on race ongoing throughout the country.

Cellphone footage showed Blake, a Black man, walking around the front of his parked SUV in Kenosha, with three officers behind him, pointing their weapons. As Blake entered the vehicle, the pop from seven shots were heard on the video.

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The Lakers decided Wednesday afternoon to join the Bucks and other NBA teams in not playing their scheduled playoff game against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Reports from Wisconsin said that Blake had been attempting to break up a disagreement in his neighborhood before police arrived. Blake’s partner, Laquisha Booker, told WTMJ-TV that the couple’s three children were in the SUV at the time of the shooting.

How the shooting came to stop the NBA:

Monday

After footage emerges, players begin discussing again whether basketball should be the focal point.

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“We shouldn’t have even come to this damn place, to be honest,” Bucks guard George Hill said. The Bucks’ home arena is 40 miles north of Kenosha. “I think coming here just took all the focal points off what the issues are.”

After a victory against Portland in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series, LeBron James and Anthony Davis steer the postgame conversation beyond basketball when asked about Blake’s shooting.

“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.”

James added: “I got half of my brain locked in on the playoffs and the other half locked in on how I can help Black people become greater in America. And that’s what it’s all about.”

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Tuesday

While preparing to play Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal, scheduled for Thursday, the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors acknowledge that discussions have begun between players about whether to play.

Boston’s Jaylen Brown posts on Twitter: “I want to go protest.”

That night, players from multiple teams meet at the Coronado Springs Resort at Disney World to discuss what to do, according to a Yahoo Sports report.

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9:09 p.m.: After a victory against Dallas that gives the Clippers a 3-2 series lead, coach Doc Rivers delivers an emotional address. The son of a Chicago police officer, Rivers says, “I believe in good cops.” “We’re not trying to defund the police and take all their money away. We’re trying to get them to protect us, just like they protect everybody else.

“… What stands out to me is just watching the Republican convention, viewing this fear. All you hear is Donald Trump and all of them talking about fear. We’re the ones getting killed. We’re the ones getting shot. We’re the ones that we’re denied to live in certain communities. We’ve been hung. We’ve been shot. All you do is keep hearing about fear. It’s amazing why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back. It’s really so sad. Like, I should just be a coach. I’m so often reminded of my color. It’s just really sad. We got to do better.”

Clippers guard Lou Williams, one of the most outspoken players on expressing whether it was appropriate to take part in the restart, uses his postgame news conference to make one statement related to Blake’s shooting.

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“It’s unfortunate we’re in this bubble and we’re still dealing with these issues,” Williams said. “We came here to bring awareness and use our voices for other guys and, sadly, we’re here and it’s still happening. We’re still seeing unarmed Black men get shot in the streets. It’s just ridiculous at this point. And I think it’s difficult being here when things like that are happening. You kind of feel helpless in a way. You can use your voice in a way but I think our presence is much more felt.”

Wednesday

12:20 p.m.: Dallas coach Rick Carlisle says he does not believe there is a plan to boycott Game 6 of the Mavericks’ series against the Clippers on Thursday.

But asked about the discussions of whether or not to play happening between the Raptors and Celtics, Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. says he would stand in solidarity with whatever his fellow players decide.

“We have to take a stand at some point,” Morris said. “[If] guys don’t want to play, I’m right there with them and I stand for whatever they got going.”

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12:55 p.m.: Minutes before the Bucks are to tip off in Game 5 of their playoff series against Orlando, only the Magic remain on the court during warmups. Eventually, the Magic leave the court, as well.

1:19 p.m.: Bucks guard George Hill tells the Undefeated that the team is not playing because “we’re tired of the killings and the injustice.”

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1:43 p.m.: Bucks senior vice president Alex Lasry writes on Twitter that he is “incredibly proud of our guys and we stand 100% behind our players ready to assist and bring about real change.”

2:06 p.m.: The NBA postpones all three games Wednesday, including Houston-Oklahoma City and Lakers-Portland.

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4:25 p.m.: Bucks players emerge from their locker room more than three hours after the scheduled tipoff to read a statement delivered by players Hill and Sterling Brown.

Greif reported from Los Angeles


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