Free agent 7-footer Meyers Leonard — out of the NBA since March 2021 after uttering an antisemitic slur on a video game livestream before rehabilitating post-surgical nerve damage on his right leg — is signing a 10-day contract with the Milwaukee Bucks, sources told ESPN on Monday.
The Bucks have been monitoring Leonard’s progress for over a year and conducted a workout with him last month, sources said. Milwaukee had an open roster spot and wanted to bring in a big man with shooting ability and a playoff history. Leonard played 28 playoff games in his seven seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Leonard, 30, has had a long road back to the NBA since playing his last game in January 2021 with the Miami Heat, including a one-week NBA suspension and a $50,000 fine for the antisemitic slur. In an interview that aired last month, Leonard told Jeremy Schaap on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” that he didn’t know the meaning or history of the slur he used.
“There are absolutely no excuses for what happened that day,” Leonard told OTL. “And ignorance, sadly, is a very real thing. I am not running from this, but I did not know that it happened.”
After his suspension, Leonard was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder and immediately waived. Leonard sought counseling from two rabbis in South Florida and met with several Jewish organizations on a frequent basis, learning more about antisemitism.
“I felt like I had just destroyed my life and everything that I worked for, to be honest,” Leonard told Schaap. “… People had every right to, I suppose, make assumptions about me. People were going to have to, in the media, comment on this. And I understand, I do.
“I said, ‘You better go handle this and to show people what’s in your heart.’ … I thought that it’d be easier to be dead than it would be to deal with what had just happened, because I want everyone to like me. I don’t hate anybody. I would never intentionally hurt anybody.”
Leonard has averaged 5.6 points and 3.9 rebounds 447 NBA games in stops with the Trail Blazers and Heat. Leonard’s return to the NBA was delayed because of injury, too, including ankle and shoulder rehabilitations that left him unable to pursue a contract until earlier this season.
“Since his use of a derogatory and unacceptable term in 2021, Meyers Leonard has been held accountable and has dedicated considerable time and effort to understand the impact 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 learnings with others.”