NBA legend LeBron James has told Liz Cambage to ‘keep being you’ after the Australian basketball star dropped out of the Tokyo Olympics in controversial circumstances.
James sent birthday well wishes as Cambage turned 30 this week and urged her not to tone down her outspoken personality.
‘Happy birthday @ecambage. Keep being you!’ James wrote, followed by the praise, closed fist, heart and crown emojis underneath a photo of the pair.
NBA superstar LeBron James (left) sent Aussie Liz Cambage birthday well wishes this week
Cambage (pictured) recently sat out of the Tokyo Olympics after reports of an on-court fight
Cambage was flattered to hear from ‘The King’ and reposted the message on her Instagram.
She has been caught up in a string of controversies in the last few months.
Cambage first threatened to sit out of the Olympics in protest after taking offence to two promotional photos of athletes she said did not represent the diversity of the Australian team.
One of the images shared by Cambage was an ad from Olympic partner and underwear supplier Jockey, which featured white athletes and which she claimed was ‘whitewashed’.
The 30-year-old Las Vegas Aces centre sensationally bowed out of the Tokyo Games earlier this month citing mental health reasons after she was involved in a confrontation with players from the West African nation in a warm-up match
The other image was an Australian uniform reveal that led Cambage to say ‘fake tan does not equal diversity’.
She eventually backed down and agreed to join the Australian team for Tokyo but was then plagued by reports of an on-court fight and off-court partying while attending an Opals training camp in Las Vegas.
The fiery confrontation while playing Nigeria is still under investigation by Basketball Australia’s Integrity Division.
When Nigeria’s captain Adaora Elonu was quizzed about what happened in the well-publicised but non-televised clash with Cambage in the warm-up match, she remained tight-lipped.
‘It’s something that happened behind closed doors. There’s nothing we can really talk about with that,’ she said.
James (pictured) is regarded as one of the best player the NBA has produced
There were also unconfirmed rumours other members of the Opals wanted to boot Cambage from the team for being too disruptive.
She eventually released a statement saying she had decided to sit out the Olympics over mental health concerns and the fact she would struggle being confined to the Tokyo players bubble.
‘Every athlete competing at the Olympic Games should be at their mental and physical peak, and I am a long way from where I want and need to be,’ she said.
‘It’s no secret I have had my struggles with mental health in the past and living in a bubble without family and friends (in Tokyo) is honestly terrifying for me.
‘Relying on daily medication to control my anxiety is not the place I want to be right now.
‘It breaks my heart to withdraw from the Olympics, but I think it is the best decision for the Opals and myself right now.’
Cambage wished her Opals teammates ‘nothing but the best of luck in Tokyo’ and said she hopes they ‘go forth and win a gold medal’.
Australian basketball star Liz Cambage (pictured) is also a model for Rhianna’s fashion brand
Australian basketball legend Andrew Bogut weighed in on the Opals star’s shock withdrawal.
‘Having mental health issues does not mean you cannot be criticised,’ he said.
‘Poor behaviour and engaging in poor team culture can be a separate issue from mental health.’
Describing her as ‘one of the best players in the world’, Bogut claimed that mental health issues weren’t the sole reason for her sudden departure from the games.
‘I believe her withdrawal from the Olympics, in my opinion, is the repercussions of her behaviour,’ he said.
Cambage, 30, didn’t feel she would cope living in a bubble away from family and friends in Tokyo for the Games
Along with birthday wishes to Cambage, 36-year-old LeBron James took the oppourtunity to declare a recent poll on the best player in the NBA in which he got zero votes would only motivate him more.
An ESPN survey of 10 top scouts and executives in the NBA asked them to name to league’s best player – with their votes split between the Milwaukee Buck’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Brooklyn Nets Kevin Durant.
Referring to the poll, James took to social media with the hashtags #superwashed and #washedking joking he was anything but washed up.
‘Thank you! As if I didn’t need more to (motivate) me! #Washed,’ he wrote.
The 2021-22 NBA season is set to kick off on October 19 with the LA Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets early picks to reach the finals.