The 30-year-old forward hasn't played in the NBA in the more than two years since he uttered an antisemitic slur during a Twitch stream while he was a member of the Miami Heat. In the aftermath of the incident, the Heat banned Leonard from the team indefinitely on March 21, 2021, before trading him to the Oklahoma City Thunder a week later.
The Thunder announced at the culmination of the trade that Leonard would not be an active member of the team. Oklahoma City subsequently released Leonard, and he hasn't played in the NBA since. Hampered by a shoulder injury, he played just three games in the 2020-21 season prior to the incident.
Insurance for Giannis?
News of the transaction arrives as Giannis Antetokounmpo faces potential missed time with a sprained right wrist. Antetokounmpo sustained the injury Thursday against the Chicago Bulls. He played in the opening 20 seconds of Sunday's All-Star game before committing an intentional foul to remove himself from the game. Testing on Monday reportedly revealed that he avoided serious injury, but could miss time until pain and swelling subside.
Per Monday's report, the Bucks have been monitoring Leonard for more than a year and conducted a workout with him in January. Leonard also reportedly worked out with the Lakers. His acquisition by Milwaukee will fill an already open roster spot as the Bucks look to contend for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
In nine NBA seasons, Leonard has averaged 5.6 points and 3.9 rebounds while shooting 48.2% from the field and 39% from 3-point distance in 16 minutes per game.
NBA: Leonard 'has been held accountable'
Leonard apologized in the immediate aftermath of the incident, which also saw him banned from Twitch.
"I am deeply sorry for using an anti-Semitic slur during a livestream yesterday," Leonard wrote in a 2021 statement. "While I didn't know what the word meant at the time, my ignorance about its history and how offensive it is to the Jewish community is absolutely not an excuse and I was just wrong."
NBA spokesman Mike Bass told ESPN in January that Leonard is in good standing with the league after he met with Jewish leaders and worked to educate himself.
"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," Bass said. "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."
Leonard's reported return to the league arrives months after the NBA and Brooklyn Nets reckoned with Kyrie Irving's decision to share antisemitic content on his social media. The Nets suspended Irving in November after he shared a link to a documentary espousing antisemitic ideology and initially refused to apologize for doing so.
Irving returned to the Nets' lineup eight games later after meeting some but not all of an initially agreed upon set of requirements, which reportedly required him to issue a verbal apology. Irving never did so, but he did meet with members of the Jewish community and issue a written statement apologizing for sharing the documentary that "contained some false anti-Semitic statements, narratives, and language that were untrue and offensive to the Jewish Race/Religion."