Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry told Matt Sullivan of Rolling Stone that he wishes he would have refused to play 2014's Game 5 first-round playoff game against the Los Angeles Clippers after former Clippers governor Donald Sterling was heard on recordings released by TMZ Sports making racist remarks.
Curry said he chose to defer to the decision of Chris Paul and the other Clippers players, who wore warmup shirts with the logo inside out in protest and deposited them at center court before playing the game.
"One of my biggest regrets is not boycotting the game," Curry said. “That was a moment to leverage beyond anything we probably could have said."
NBA commissioner Adam Silver ultimately decided on a lifetime ban for Sterling.
Curry wasn't alone in wanting to boycott the game.
"I was all-in. Like shut down the whole season," Warriors forward Andre Iguodala told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne in 2019. "Maybe that was too far, but as far as that game that day, you can reschedule it, you gotta sort this thing out, because there's some deep-rooted stuff with him that had to be addressed."
The Sterling recordings and the wait for a response became a national story, with all eyes on how the players would handle the shocking news.
"We all have family, friends, people that we hadn't talked to in a while that were like, 'You guys cannot play!'" Jamal Crawford told Shelburne in 2019. "I remember Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest hit me and was like, 'You guys cannot play. This is bigger than you. It's so much bigger than you. You guys can really send a message.' I was like, 'Man, I hear where you're coming from.' But at that time, I didn't know what we were going to do."
Since that night in 2014, however, a team has refused to play. The Milwaukee Bucks refused to take the court for Game 5 of their first-round playoff series against the Orlando Magic in 2020 in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The NBA, in response and solidarity, postponed the night's other two scheduled playoff games.
A lot took place between 2014 and 2020, including Colin Kaepernick's decision to kneel for the playing of the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racial discrimination. Many athletes have used their platforms and power to fight for social change, especially in the wake of numerous police killings of Black men and women.
"All the ways that they want to nitpick what Colin's done, from the time he kneeled to now, you can't tell me that there hasn’t been progress and change and a renewed sense of accountability amongst a lot of athletes," Curry told Sullivan," like, 'Which side of the fence are you on? Are you doing something or not?'"