Enes Kanter Freedom has spoken out against China, and conservatives are now convinced he’s MJ.
There is a vast conspiracy happening right now in the NBA to silence one of the league’s best players, and the mainstream media isn’t telling you about it.
You heard that right. One of the best players in basketball is being kept from the court by the powers that be for having the wrong political opinions, and it’s time that the world knows. No, we’re not talking about LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, or Kevin Durant. We’re talking about a game-changing big man, true king of the sport. We’re talking about [checks notes] uh ... Enes Kanter Freedom?
Somehow, against all odds, a journeyman center who has been on the fringes of the NBA for the last half-decade has become the center of conservative Twitter.
To hear them tell it, Freedom — who changed his last name from Kanter earlier this year after he received his American citizenship — is a massive star who has upset China, the NBA’s overlord, and therefore must now must be silenced. Freedom has spent the better part of the last year (rightfully!) railing on China for its ongoing repression of Tibet, as well as the wrongful detention of the Uyghur people and other Muslim minorities carried out by the Chinese government. He called out LeBron James for his partnership with Nike, which uses forced labor in China to make its shoes.
For that reason — and definitely only that reason! — Freedom was shipped from the Boston Celtics to the Houston Rockets at the trade deadline and then immediately waived, leaving him without a team and without a platform. Well, except for Tucker Carlson’s show, which he appears to be welcome on any time he wants. Oh, and Fox & Friends. Oh, and the stage at CPAC. But other than that!
Just listen to these guys who have definitely watched basketball and know what they are talking about describe the injustice happening here. Kentucky Republican Rep. Andy Barr said that Freedom is “still at the top of his game” and noted that Freedom played college ball for the Kentucky Wildcats, in case any of his constituents wonder why in the world he is wasting his time tweeting about these things. Nick Adams, founder of the Foundation for Liberty and American Greatness and keeper of the absolute worst sports takes in history, observed that Freedom “is one of the best centers in the NBA.” Ben Shapiro, a Celtics fan who didn’t once tweet about Freedom’s play while he was with Boston for 93 games across two separate seasons, said Freedom “has been run out of the NBA for the sin” of calling out the NBA’s ties to China.
Of course, if you have watched any professional basketball since, say, 2015, you might have a different view of Freedom: He sucks.
Look, all things are relative here. Freedom is, by definition of playing in the NBA, one of the best basketball players in the world. He’s put together a 10-year professional career, and he has, at times, been a useful player for some competitive teams. But the game was passing him by well before he started becoming a vocal critic of China.
Until 2015, Freedom (then Kanter) was a good-not-great center on a middling Utah Jazz team, where he managed to piss everyone off so much that, after he was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, none of his former teammates would acknowledge him. He’s been called “ the most overpaid player” in the league, he got meme’d into oblivion after his head coach was caught on camera saying “can’t play Kanter” because he was such a liability on defense, and he’s spent most of his career being trade fodder. He got waived by the New York Knicks in 2019, and no conservatives said a word.
Ever since, he’s signed minimum contracts and been traded for scraps and waited for any team to come calling in the offseason because he’s just not very good. Bleacher Report once identified him as the worst defensive player at his position in the whole league. He doesn’t shoot from outside of 10 feet and he can’t elevate, in a league that increasingly values shooting and verticality. He’s a bad passer and, by lots of accounts, a pretty bad teammate. He was on his way out of the NBA anyway.
Freedom’s outspokenness is certainly genuine. He’s criticized Turkey’s dictator Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, too, and pushed for pay equity for WNBA players. He’s been a vocal vaccine supporter. Activism is not new to him.
But the right-wing media infrastructure is, and there’s nothing genuine about that. These are the same people who acted like Colin Kaepernick couldn’t stick in the NFL because he wasn’t good enough, now pretending that Freedom — a guy who has never made an All-Star Game or been named to an All-NBA team and is currently averaging 3.7 points per game — is some sort of blacklisted superstar. I’d encourage any of them to push for their favorite team to sign Freedom and play him 40 minutes a night. Enjoy your lottery pick!