Meyers Leonardis breaking his silence and giving his first on-camera interview to TMZ Sports after using an anti-Semitic slur … addressing the bonds he’s formed with the Jewish community, death threats he’s received, and his desire to return to the basketball court.
“It’s hard to explain,” Leonard told us out in Beverly Hills. “The people who have been the most loving and the most compassionate, showing the most grace, have been so many people from the Jewish community.”
Since being released, Leonard has been incredibly active within the Jewish community, including meeting a bunch of kids at a synagogue in Boca Raton … where he got emotional while discussing the incident with the students.
It’s just one of many things Leonard’s done to educate himself … in the process, forging tight bonds with Jewish people of all ages.
“I can honestly sit and talk for an hour about this. About all the different experiences with little kids in the Jewish community, to teenagers, all the way up to Rabbis, who have just been so generous with their time and so understanding.”
Meyers says in the wake of the comments, both he and his family had to deal with terrible abuse online, including people threatening to sexually assault and murder his spouse.
“It’s been a very, very long and hard process,” Leonard says … “When the death threats, and my wife is being told ‘don’t leave your house, we’re gonna rape you.’ And, these things. It was hard. So, a lot of these things are difficult to share, but over time I’ve been able to heal.”
As for Meyers’ hoops career, he’s gunning to get back in the league … and says it’d be a dream come true to return to Pat Riley‘s team.
“I would be ecstatic if I could play for the Miami Heat again. I fell in love with that place, I really did. My wife and I love it there.”
Meyers continued … “There’s something about the culture there that’s just me.”
Whether it’s back in South Florida or in another NBA city … Leonard — a 9 year NBA vet — just hopes he has a chance to return to the game he loves.
“I can only be hopeful that people will allow me bounce back from a mistake. This was a mistake of extreme ignorance, and I own it.”