LeBron will play Sunday, does not face quarantine, missed games for violating league protocol

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LeBron James will be on the court Sunday when the Lakers open the playoffs against the Phoenix Suns.

While he violated the league’s coronavirus protocols by attending a maskless event last Monday to promote Lobos 1707, a tequila brand he backs, the league is not placing him in quarantine and will not force him to miss games because the event did not rise to the level of something that would cause the spread of the virus, a league official confirmed to NBC Sports. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN was first to report this.

The issue was addressed with the Lakers, but that is as far as this will go, the source confirmed.

The NBA rejects the idea of any double standard — Kyrie Irving, James Harden, and other players faced a five-day quarantine and missed games after violations of the league protocol — saying the nature of the event LeBron attended was different.

LeBron attended an outdoor event where everyone in attendance needed to show either proof of vaccination or a recent negative test to attend, according to Dave McMenamin’s story on ESPN that broke the news. There have been countless violations of league protocols by players on every team over the course of the season, and in almost every case the league took it up with the team and there was no quarantine because the incident or event itself was not going to lead to the spread of the virus, according to a league official. Players were only quarantined if they put themselves in a position where the virus easily could spread, such as Harden being pictured at a crowded club where there was no testing.

This became a story because LeBron’s violation became very public when he ended up on Drake’s Instagram with Michael B. Jordan and others at the event.

Technically a suspension was never in the cards — the league has not suspended players for violation of league coronavirus protocols, only put them in quarantines. Those quarantines feel like a suspension in that the player is not allowed to play in games and loses his salary over that stretch, but as a matter of semantics it is not a suspension, as the league would hand down for an on-court fight, for example. The coronavirus protocols were agreed to by the league and the NBA players union.

LeBron led the Lakers to a dramatic win Wednesday over Stephen Curry and the Warriors, advancing Los Angeles to the playoffs as the No. 7 seed. The Lakers take on the Suns Sunday in Game 1 of that first-round series.