The small but consistent feud between Celtics center Enes Kanter and Lakers star LeBron James goes back several years, and it was mostly sparked by James’s words or actions that Kanter found offensive or annoying.
When Kanter played for the Knicks and James played for the Cavaliers, Kanter did not like it when James called himself the King of New York, and he did not like it when James criticized the Knicks for their draft decisions. So he fired back with some on-court trash talk and Twitter barbs. Then last summer Kanter defended Rockets general manager Daryl Morey after James questioned his open support for pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong.
Despite Kanter’s seemingly icy view of James, however, he is also an admirer.
In 2018, James opened the I Promise School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, a charter elementary school that serves at-risk children. Kanter was so moved that he has decided to do something similar by opening a charter school in Oklahoma City.
“I think that’s the most beautiful thing you can do, educating our future, investing in our future,” Kanter said. “It was the most beautiful thing LeBron did, and it inspired me. I criticize LeBron a lot, obviously. Me and him have a beef. But what he did was just — I was like, ‘Wow, this is amazing.’ ”
Kanter, who played for the Thunder from 2015-17, has submitted an application to the Oklahoma City Public Schools to open the Enes Kanter School for Exceptional Learning. He said the school will focus on educating low-income minority students and students from immigrant families. It will be for fourth-12th-graders.
Kanter said that if the application is accepted, the school should be on track to open in the fall of 2021.
“This was my childhood dream, the school,” Kanter said. “There’s a good quote out there – ‘He who opens a school will close a prison.’ Education is the most powerful tool that can change the world. You see what’s going on in our world right now. If you want to kill a terrorist, you can use weapons, but if you want to kill terrorism, you can use education. So, for me, it was very important to give back in this way.
“Obviously, all of America has given me so much — given me a home, given me family. So I wanted to give back to America that way, with education so we can have a brighter future and so we can educate our people, so we can have a bigger future. It’s very, very important and I’m so excited.”
Kanter said he hopes to meet with Oklahoma City public school and city officials when the Celtics travel there to face the Thunder on Feb. 9. He said that if this school is successful, he would like to build his next one in Hawaii.
“This is bigger than basketball,” Kanter said. “When I’m done with my career I want to look back and see how many people I inspired, how many hearts I touched, how many lives I changed. I think it’s way bigger than basketball.”
Not a slam dunk
Although this season’s Celtics roster will probably include multiple All-Stars, the spotlight during team’s pregame warm-up routines generally shines on rookie Javonte Green, whose array of high-flying dunks even make his teammates gawk.
Nevertheless, Green said he would not be interested in taking part in the slam-dunk contest at All-Star Weekend, if he were to be invited.
“I feel like I’m more of a game dunker,” he said. “I feel like I could do OK in a dunk contest for sure, but all of my dunks I feel like come off instinct in games.”
Green said he took part in the dunk contest in the Basketball Bundesliga All-Star Game while playing in Germany last season, and he came in last place.
“I’m kind of scarred from that,” he said, smiling. “The dunk I was trying to do I kept missing, so I did something different. But I was trying to do a 360 windmill. I had enough height, but I don’t know if the nerves got to me. I couldn’t put it down.”
Green has eight dunks in games this season. He is more eager to add to that total than he is to take part in an exhibition.
“I just like to dunk off of instinct and on people,” he said.