Meyers Leonard, the 7-footer who has been out of the NBA since March 2021, has signed a 10-day contract with the Milwaukee Bucks, sources told ESPN on Monday. Leonard had been out of the league since delivering an anti-Semitic slur on a video game livestream and then rehabilitating post-surgical nerve damage to his right leg.
The Bucks had been monitoring Leonard’s progress for over a year and held a training session with him last month. With an open roster spot, Milwaukee wanted to bring in a big man with shooting skills and a playoff history. Leonard played 28 playoff games in his seven seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Leonard was suspended for a week and fined $50,000 for his slur, though he told ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap in an interview that aired last month that he didn’t know the meaning or history of the insults he used. Leonard has since met with South Florida rabbis and Jewish organizations to learn more about antisemitism.
“I felt like I just destroyed my life and everything I worked for to be honest,” Leonard told Schaap. “People had, I suppose, every right to speculate about me. People would have to comment on that in the media. And I understand I do. I said, ‘You better deal with it and show people what’s in your heart.’ I thought that being dead would be easier than dealing with what just happened because I want everyone to like me. I don’t hate anyone. I would never intentionally hurt anyone.”
Leonard’s return to the NBA was also delayed due to injuries, including ankle and shoulder rehabs, which made it impossible for him to pursue a contract until earlier this season. He has averaged 5.6 points and 3.9 rebounds in 447 NBA games in stops with the Trail Blazers and Heat.
“Since his use of a derogatory and unacceptable term in 2021, Meyers Leonard has been held accountable and has spent significant time and effort understanding the implications of his comment,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said recently. “He has met with numerous leaders in the Jewish community and participated in community programs to educate himself and use his platform to share his insights with others.”
Leonard’s 10-day contract with the Bucks is a testament to his hard work and dedication to learning from his mistake. It will be interesting to see how he fits in with the team and if he can make an impact in the playoffs.