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LeBron James responds to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's criticism of COVID meme: "We're all trying to figure this pandemic out"

NBA star LeBron James has responded to Los Angeles Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's criticism of a meme James posted on social media questioning the difference between COVID-19, the flu and the common cold. Abdul-Jabbar wrote that the meme was "unimformed" and that James "encouraged vaccine hesitancy which puts lives and livelihoods at risk."

After the Lakers' 132-123 win over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday, James was asked about Abdul-Jabbar's comments.

"No, I don't have a response to Kareem at all," James said. "And if you saw the post and you read the tag, you're literally, honestly asking, 'Help me out?' Help me kind of figure it all out. We're all trying to figure this pandemic out." 

"I think people forgot about the flu," James added. "People like literally forgot about the flu during these times like that's still going around, it's flu season. People have forgot about common colds. That happens, especially with a lot of our kids that's in school."

Last week, James posted a popular meme format on Instagram depicting three identical-looking Spider-Men pointing at each other. In James' post, one was labeled "flu," the second "covid" and the third "cold." He captioned the post, "Help me out folks." 

Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar criticized LeBron James for posting a meme questioning the difference between COVID, flu and cold.  Getty Images

His post was widely criticized online for seemingly implying the three illnesses were the same. Abdul-Jabbar went a step further and wrote an essay titled, "Dear LeBron: Here's the COVID-19 Help You Requested in Your Spider-Man Meme" on Substack, saying the post "was a blow to his worthy legacy." 

"The meme's implication is that LeBron doesn't understand the difference among these three illnesses, even after all the information that's been presented in the press," Jabbar said. 

He said that a post like the one James shared "questions the validity of the efforts to get the country vaccinated" which Abdul-Jabbar found especially harmful due to James' large following. "By posting the uninformed meme, LeBron has encouraged vaccine hesitancy which puts lives and livelihoods at risk," he added. 

Instead, Abdul-Jabbar encouraged James, who is fully vaccinated, to be an advocate for COVID-19 and flu vaccines because of his standing in the Black community. Data from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows Black people have been less likely to get vaccinated against COVID-19 compared to White people. During 2020-2021, an estimated 40.4% of Black people were vaccinated against the flu, compared to 55.5% among White people, according to CDC's statistics. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the U.S. flu season has arrived on schedule after essentially taking a year off in 2020, with flu hospitalizations rising and two child deaths reported. U.S. health officials are warning that COVID-19 cases are still on the rise as the surge, driven by the Omicron variant, has prompted a wave of disruptions across the country. 

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