Meyers Leonard considered quitting basketball after anti-Semitic slur

Before getting an opportunity to play in the NBA again, Meyers Leonard was close to calling it quits on his career following his anti-Semitic slur in March 2021.

“But that would have been the coward’s way out, to run away and say I’ve made enough money, I want to go start my life elsewhere,” Leonard told reporters on Wednesday. “I felt like I owed it to anyone who’s ever believed in me, my family, my son, to make this right.”

Leonard signed a 10-day contract with the Milwaukee Bucks earlier this week, marking his return to basketball after almost two years, following the immense backlash the center received after using saying “k-ke” while playing “Call of Duty” on a livestream.

While dealing with his mistake, and shoulder and ankle injuries, Leonard contemplated leaving his nine-season basketball life behind.

“It’s a mixed bag of emotions, for sure,” Leonard said. “It’s certainly the hardest two-year stretch I’ve ever had in my life, as an adult, as a man.”

He was extremely appreciative of the Bucks to give him the opportunity to prove himself.

The Bucks signed Meyers Leonard to a 10-day contract two years after saying an anti-Semitic slur made him untouchable.
Getty Images

“To take a chance on me like this, it takes a lot of courage,” Leonard said.

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said he felt like Leonard has grown as a person since 2021 incident made headlines.

“Meyers has been really, really diligent and conscientious about engaging with the Jewish community, acknowledging that there’s no place for antisemitism or anti-Semitic slurs or any type of hate speech,” Budenholzer explained. “The genuineness with how he’s talked to us about it, he’s talked publicly. We feel like he’s a person of high character that has owned and tried to make this an educational opportunity for himself and others.”

Over the last two years, Leonard has gone through a long journey of connecting with the Jewish community to show his remorse. He apologized to the public saying “my ignorance about its history and how offensive it is to the Jewish community is absolutely not an excuse and I was just wrong.” He’s also worked with Jewish groups, doing things like hosting basketball camps for Jewish children.

“I always try to look at life glass half-full, but obviously there were times when it was very, very, very dark,” Leonard explained while getting emotional about how hard the last two years have been for him.

Despite everything that’s happened, he feels that he’s finally ready to move on with the next chapter of his life.

Meyers Leonard dunks the ball in Game 3 of the 2020 NBA Finals against the Lakers
Meyers Leonard dunks the ball in Game 3 of the 2020 NBA Finals against the Lakers
NBAE via Getty Images

“I spent some quality time with my family, tried to rehab myself, and feel pretty darned good about where I’m at.”