Throughout the night, from before the game until after the last fans had left, a group of a few hundred demonstrations staged a protest, often loud but always peaceful, outside the front gate of Barclays Center.
"I can't breathe," they chanted, echoing the videotaped words of Eric Garner as he was throttled by a New York police officer last July. He had been accused of nothing more than selling loose cigarettes on streets of Staten Island, a quick trip across the Verrazzano Bridge from Brooklyn.
No one was indicted in the case and the demonstrators wanted all those who attended and the news crews covering the game and visit of Prince William and Kate Middleton to know they were out there and that "Black Lives Matter," as many of their signs read.
Inside, the protest took a different form. Four Nets --Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett, Jarrett Jack and Alan Anderson-- as well as two Cavs --LeBron James and Kyrie Irving-- wore warm-up shirts that also read, "I can't breathe." Jay-Z posed with the Nets. Jack said he got his agency, Excel Management, which also reps Williams, to supply the shirts and he provided them to members of both teams.
"I just heard people's opinion on the topic, and I know [the Cavaliers] are on the road," said Jack. "this is the place where it happened, so if they wanted to be a part of the cause or make a statement without actually necessarily saying any words, I definitely extended the invitation ... I just want to allow those guys to come be a part of it as well as much as we could."
D-Will admitted that he normally doesn't get involved in politics, but the father of four saw the Garner case as different.
"I try to kinda distance myself from [social issues]," but this is one where I kinda really paid attention and saw what was going on," Williams said. "I mean, you can see the [Garner] video and you know what happened. It's not one of those things where people are saying this and the cops are saying that. It's there for you to see. You just feel bad that a man lost his life because of that."
"They should be political," offered Lionel Hollins. "They should be about social awareness. Basketball is just a small part of life. If they don't think that there is justice or they feel like there is something that they should protest, then they should. That is their right as citizens of America, and I have no problem with it at all."
Garnett, as one would expect, took a philosophical view.
"You hear the slogan 'NBA cares' and it's more evident than now to show some support," Garnett said. "Obviously we're not on the front line of this movement, but I think it's important being from these communities and supporting these communities."
James said his decision was more personal. "It was a message to the family, that I’m sorry for their loss," James said.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver took a measured stand, "I respect Derrick Rose and all of our players for voicing their personal views on important issues, but my preference would be for players to abide by our on-court attire rules," Silver told Yahoo Sports in an email on Monday night."
By 10:30, the arena was mostly empty, but the crowd continued to protest heading down Atlantic Avenue.
- Silver to Yahoo: Yes on players' social commentary, no on uniforms - Adrian Wojnarowski - Yahoo! Sports
- For LeBron James and Other Stars, the Political Is Personal - Zach Schonbrun - New York Times
- LeBron James wears 'I can't breathe' shirt before game Catherine E. Shoichet, Julian Cummings and Holly Yan - CNN
- LeBron wears an ‘I Can’t Breathe’ shirt at Barclays Center - Reuven Fenton and Gillian Kleiman - New York Post
- Protests rage as royals attend NBA game at Barclays Center - Nathaniel Vinton - New York Daily News
- LeBron, others wear 'I CAN'T BREATHE' tees before Nets-Cavs - Stefan Bondy - New York Daily News
- How the Nets and Cavaliers voiced their opinions - Tim Bontemps - New York Post
- LeBron, Irving in 'I Can't Breathe' tees - Dave McMenamin & Mike Mazzeo - ESPN New York
- LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams, Kyrie Irving, Jarrett Jack, Alan Anderson Wear "I Can't Breathe" T-Shirt - Devin Kharpertian - The Brooklyn Game
- Nets get political in rare show of protest - Devin Khapertian - The Brooklyn Game
- Lebron James holds court by showing support - Andy Vasquez - The Record
- LeBron James and Kyrie Irving follow Derrick Rose’s lead, wear "I Can’t Breathe" shirts before Cavs-Nets game - Sean Highkin - NBC Sports
- For first time since 1968 Olympics (Black Power salute), LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Derrick Rose and Nets reuniting The Black Athlete - Chris Haynes - Cleveland Plain-Dealer
A day like few others in the life of LeBron James - Joe Vardon - Cleveland Plain-Dealer