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Nets' Garrett Temple becomes leading voice for playing in Orlando

Nets guard Garrett Temple scores a layup against

Nets guard Garrett Temple scores a layup against the Hawks during the first half of an NBA game at Barclays Center on Dec. 21, 2019. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Considering the Nets are Garrett Temple’s ninth team in 10 NBA seasons, it’s fair to call him a “journeyman.” But many Nets describe the stylish, erudite, ambitious Temple as “The President” because of the outsized leadership role he has assumed in his first season with them.

In fact, Temple and teammate Kyrie Irving serve as vice-presidents with the National Basketball Players Association, and they recently found themselves in opposite camps during the discussion over whether players should return to play later this month at Disney World in Orlando. Some wanted to sit out to focus attention on the Black Lives Matter movement and widespread protests about police brutality while staying healthy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Irving reportedly led a group of players who favored ending the season while Temple spoke in favor of returning and using the NBA platform for social justice. Discussing those conversations on a Zoom conference with reporters on Sunday, Temple said, “Everybody wants the same thing. Kyrie, myself, most of the Black men in the league that are passionate about this, we want the same thing.

“What is the way we can most utilize this extra push, these extra ears, and extra eyes that are on this situation … I think we utilize the situation — being in the bubble — as a way to continue to push it, because there are going to be so many eyes watching these basketball games again because of the pandemic.”

Temple is intimately familiar with the history of the civil rights movement. Grandfather Collis Temple Sr. was denied entry to college in the 1950s based on his race, and father Collis Temple Jr. later became the first black basketball player at LSU, where Temple later followed his father. Temple also is preparing for a career in law with an eye toward politics.

During the course of recent NBPA group calls, Temple struck up a friendship with CNN commentator Van Jones, who favors Temple’s position. “One thing [Jones] was saying was, ‘We want y’all to keep playing,’” Temple recalled. “’Y’all are some of the few Black people in America that have a little bit of money, so we don’t want y’all to stop that.’ I think his biggest thing to us was … that he does see a change in how things are going. That was encouraging, and I thank him for that.”

Temple said he sees the resumption of NBA play as a way not only to keep the narrative going but also as a means to preserving what he has described as “generational wealth” for NBA players and their families. At the same time, if the Nets still are playing in mid-September, he will leave Orlando “no question” to join his fiancé, who is expecting the couple’s first child at that point.

“Things are not mutually exclusive,” Temple said. “We actually can get more done by playing than by not playing. If we don’t go to Orlando and play, as I said, the narrative has died down … It’s more about the COVID pandemic right now. By us playing, I think we can keep more eyes on it.

“I would hope that you’re not only conscious, but you’re active in using your platform and your resources to help things that you feel like can be changed, whether it is putting money into certain situations, having the foundation that helps fund certain issues you want to see get better. We can utilize those resources to help the communities that we grew up in, live in and care about. That’s my biggest thing in terms of the generational wealth.

“You can do your job, make money and also use that money to help your community if you choose to. So, that’s my big thing.”

New York Sports