Milwaukee Bucks Commentator Details Start of NBA Boycott

Bucks legend and Color Commentator Marques Johnson breaks down why the Bucks boycotted Game 5 of the NBA playoffs without notifying the rest of the league. He details George Hill's leadership and hesitation to play that led the team to come up with a decision. Meanwhile, Lebron James gets criticism for his actions despite the NBA returning to competition.

Video Transcript

JOSIAH JOHNSON: All right, we're pleased to be joined again by a friend of the program, also my pops, Marques Johnson. Dad, how's everything going?

MARQUES JOHNSON: Oh, man, it's been crazy the last couple of days around here, Josiah. I'm in Milwaukee. And, you know, it's going-- it's going OK. But it's been a crazy past couple of days, for sure.

JOSIAH JOHNSON: You were live on the air yesterday for game 5 of the Bucks, Magic series, kind of giving us the play by play, blow by blow as things went on. When did you know that the Bucks decided to boycott? And what were the factors that led to that boycott?

MARQUES JOHNSON: George Hill was not activated. He was not on the active roster, which was a little weird, in terms of how well he had been playing. He wasn't hurt. And so I knew he was not going to play. And then I found out later that there were a couple other guys who wanted to support him.

And then the team just said 30 minutes before tip-off, you know, we're not doing this, we're not playing. Everybody-- if one guy is going to make the sacrifice and sit out for something that he believes in, we're a team. We win together. We lose together. We boycott together.

JOSIAH JOHNSON: But so I wanted to ask you, do you agree with the Bucks' decision to boycott game 5?

MARQUES JOHNSON: Yes, I agree with it. Because, again, to quote everybody from Ronald Reagan, to Barack Obama, to Rabbi Hillel, if not you, then who? If not now, then when?

Going to the bubble was to allow these guys to participate in protesting social injustice, protesting police abuse and overreach and excessive force. And this is going on right down the street from where you are operating as an organization, and you're not going to do anything? So I felt like this was the one franchise, the one organization that was positioned in such a way that they had to do something.

LAJETHRO JENKINS: Some other players were upset with the Bucks for moving, independently, of the rest of the teams. Other players, like Jaylen Brown, said the Bucks didn't owe them any explanation. Do you think the Bucks handled the situation appropriately?

MARQUES JOHNSON: Well, here's the deal, the Bucks didn't know what they were going to do. This was-- this was a spontaneous event. Yesterday, George Hill was the only player that said that he was not going to participate. And George Hill has been consistent for months about this whole thing-- why are we coming down to this damn place? We're losing the focal point of what this protesting, what this-- what the whole thing about social injustice is all about.

And so it wasn't like this was something that was planned out for days and premeditated by the Bucks. 30 minutes before game time-- I got this from a reliable source-- 30 minutes before tip-off was when this decision as a team was made. So there wasn't a whole lot of time to consult with LeBron, or consult with Chris Paul, or consult with Michelle Roberts.

They made the collective decision not to play. It was a spontaneous decision. And sometimes in terms of how things happen, in the course of history, these types of decisions made spontaneously are the most effective.

ZACH SCHWARTZ: What's it like for you to see players boycott a playoff game? And just the kind of power that these guys have, and just how incredible that was. What was that like for you to see that now?

MARQUES JOHNSON: These young men today, they're not laughing. This is not a laughing matter to them. And that's the beauty of this boycott is they're taking this thing seriously. They don't have to react the way we reacted. They don't have to diffuse the intensity of the situation.

They can act like we were reluctant to act back in the days when I played. And so in terms of what they're doing, in context of what we and how we handled situations similar to this back in our day, I think it's a beautiful thing. I think it's progress. And I'm so proud and just to be associated with this team, with this organization because of the courageous stand that they took.

LAJETHRO JENKINS: What are you saying to people that think, you know, what are these guys-- you know, what are they complaining about? They're rich.

MARQUES JOHNSON: William Rhoden, the great sports writer, wrote a fantastic book called the, "Forty Million Dollar Slaves," right. And, look, we've been privileged as athletes to enter in the top, you know, whatever it is, the 1% or even smaller than that in terms of wealth in this country. But you still got feelings. You still a human being. And I think the fact that you are in a privileged situation and still can get treated or mistreated in such a way, really drives a message in home that nobody is impervious to this thing.

JOSIAH JOHNSON: Reports came out Wednesday night that LeBron and the Lakers and Clippers, LeBron kind of led a movement to boycott the season and walked out of the meeting. Obviously, he's kind of changed his position. There's a lot of people out there that are extremely critical of LeBron, obviously, with the whole China situation and everything going on. But I want to know as a former player, when you look at LeBron James, what has impact been off the court and on, you know, social activism?

MARQUES JOHNSON: When you look at what he's done in Akron, and the school, and the money he has spent, and the type of things he's provided for the youth of his hometown, what he's done, nationally, in terms of being an outspoken proponent of so many different causes, to me, LeBron James has been one of those active, in terms of politically, socially, consciously interpretive players I've ever witnessed in my lifetime. So, you know, I can't find nothing but good things to say about LeBron. I'm proud of the fact that he's a family man.

He's been scandal-- scandal-free. I mean, the only thing that you were able to say about LeBron was that, you know, he's not knocking down jumpers in the clip. And now, he's doing that. To me, makes him one of the most remarkable athletes in our lifetime.

JOSIAH JOHNSON: Marques, Dad, Pops, appreciate you for coming through and blessing us and lacing us. Stay safe out there and keep doing what you do.

MARQUES JOHNSON: All right, man. Thank you, man.

JOSIAH JOHNSON: Thanks a lot, Marques, appreciate you.