Since entering the NBA two decades ago, Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James has faced plenty of online criticism.
So, it made sense that the four-time NBA Finals champion decided to come to the defense of LSU forward, and reigning national champion Angel Reese amid rising criticism where Reese was seen taunting (in a similar fashion) Hawkeyes guard Clark multiple times in the game’s final moments and some fans online didn’t seem to like Reese's trolling moments.
On Sunday, Reese and LSU Tigers defeated Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes to claim the program's first-ever national title. And with the exposure has come extreme criticism from many online.
Immediately after the Tigers’ championship win, basketball fans on social media began voicing their displeasure with the 20-year-old star's actions. Some users called Reese “classless” for making the gesture with Iowa on the brink of defeat:
Many athletes came to Reese's defense though, and James was one of the first.
“FACTS!!!! Love to see it,” James said on Twitter in response to a tweet that read in its caption, “Angel Reese to all the haters after winning the national championship.”
James wasn't the only athlete that showed Reese support online:
Reese defended her actions and responded to the things her many critics had to say:
“All year I was critiqued about who I was. ... I don't fit the narrative. I don't fit in a box that y'all want me to be in. I'm too hood. I'm too ghetto. Y'all told me that all year. But when other people do it, y'all say nothing,” Reese said in her postgame interview.
“So this was for the girls that look like me, that's going to speak up on what they believe in. It's unapologetically you. That's what I did for tonight. It was bigger than me tonight. It was bigger than me. Twitter is going to go on a rage every time, and I'm happy. I feel like I've helped grow women's basketball this year. I'm super happy and excited. So I'm looking forward to celebrating in the next season.”
The “You Can't See Me” gesture -- made popular by American wrestler John Cena -- is one that Clark used against her opponents during the Elite Eight when she posted a 41-point, 12-assist, 10-rebound triple-double against No. 5 Louisville. Cena even took notice of it on Twitter.
After the gesture on Sunday, Reese also pointed at her ring finger several times while staring down Clark.
Reese seems to be standing firm in her actions and even doubled down in her responses on Twitter:
Reese was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player and finished the title game with 15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.