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Iman Shumpert backs off accusations that ‘Empire’ is ripping off his life

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Despite previously making fiery accusations to the contrary, Cleveland Cavaliers star Iman Shumpert has pulled a complete one-eighty about his contention that characters in the FOX series, “Empire,” were modeled after him and his girlfriend, R&B artist Teyana Taylor.

“I don’t see how they can deny it,” Shumpert told Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Chris Haynes. “Everybody knows.”

Now, in comments made to TMZ Sports, Shumpert is backing away from his original comments, claiming they were misconstrued.

“The ‘Empire’ story pertaining to myself and my girlfriend Teyana has gotten out of hand,” Shumpert said, saying that he his girlfriend have heard from fans of the show and friends that the couple on show bear a resemblance.

Shumpert then issued an apology to the actors on the show, saying, “They’re just being professionals and don’t deserve slander that’s not what I was trying to portray and I have to be more careful with my choice of words.”

The Cavaliers guard then insisted his comments were misconstrued and the blame lies with Haynes.

“I do not appreciate the writer using his questions with my answers to draw quotes like I was making these elaborate answers but that’s the media,” Shumpert continued. “The writer took a 2-3 min convo of locker room talk after a great team win and made it look like a sit down interview and it wasn’t.”

Shumpert’s attempted backtrack was based on his original accusation, in comments made to Haynes, that the character Hakeem, a hip hop artist, is patterned after him, right down to his patented high-top fade hairstyle. He also suggested that the Hakeem character’s girlfriend, a musician named Tiana, is almost a carbon copy of his girlfriend.

“They’re using my girl’s character, her style, her look and she’s not getting anything for it,” Shumpert said. “They didn’t even change her name. They could have at least let my girl audition for the part instead of stealing her character completely.

“And come on man, they’re really using a guy with a flat-top like me. Come on. That’s ridiculous. They never called us. We were blindsided. We found out by our family and fans when the show aired.”

(photo credit: Getty Images)