Wednesday night LeBron James was adamant that the NBA not continue the playoffs and walked out of the players’ meeting after making his thoughts known (the rest of the Lakers, plus the Clippers followed him). LeBron’s frustration — with the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin — was evident for everyone to see on Twitter.
Miami’s veteran sage Udonis Haslem then stood up and asked if there could be a playoffs without LeBron and Kawhi Leonard? Haslem next moved the conversation to discussing the platform, the megaphone the players had with the bubble and games, the opportunity they had to be sure their voices were heard. His comments resonated with the players still in the meeting.
LeBron and other Lakers players met several times late into the night in the Orlando bubble and started to change their position over time — it was in the best interest of all the players to finish the season, so long as there was a plan going forward to push social justice action. The change of position was something first reported Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports and echoed by Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times.
The Lakers players met as a group a couple of times since last night’s meeting, including this morning before they went into the group meeting with the rest of the teams. https://t.co/EQRi9fwhhB
— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) August 27, 2020
LeBron James expressed a desire to go home during the players’ meeting Wednesday. In reality he wanted to continue the playoffs — he wants to hang a banner in Staples Center — but only if there was a better plan on the social justice front going forward, reports the team at The Athletic. The Bucks had blindsided everyone with their boycott decision — the Orlando Magic had been out warming up, expecting a game — and the aftermath of that was a lot of raw emotions but no cohesive set of steps to better use the NBA’s bubble platform to spur action, or to push the owners to use their influence to push change in their cities.
The impact of kneeling during the anthem, wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts, even talking about Blake or other shooting victims in interviews, had faded and was becoming just part of the game. As players formulated a revised plan to promote social justice and work with the owners going forward, LeBron and the Lakers came around to the importance of the playoffs continuing.
The NBA needed LeBron to change his mind. A playoffs without LeBron would have rung hollow, and not just on the court (where LeBron’s Lakers have looked like the best team in the West the last few games). The NBA needs his voice, his presence to make this work — the NBA is a league built on stars and he is the biggest basketball star in the world. His voice carries.
After the players voted Thursday to resume games, LeBron Tweeted about actions, not words.
Change doesn’t happen with just talk!! It happens with action and needs to happen NOW! For my @IPROMISESchool kids, kids and communities across the country, it’s on US to make a difference. Together. That's why your vote is @morethanavote ✊🏾 #BlackLivesMatter
— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 27, 2020
(LeBron has taken a lot of actions and put his money where his mouth is, something Jared Kushner seemed not to grasp in his comments earlier in the day.)
As uncoordinated as it might have been, the Bucks’ boycott of a game, leading to the cancellation of NBA games (which spread to the WNBA and MLB) had the desired effect — social justice was back on the front page. President Trump was talking about it (even if he was just using it to pander to his base). LeBron’s voice on these matters will again be front-page national news, when he chooses to use it.
LeBron has earned a voice and a presence in the NBA space no other player can match. He understands the responsibility that comes with it.
How he uses that voice going forward the next few weeks will be interesting to see.