The NBA did everything in its power to make its players and staff feel as comfortable as possible in the bubble environment they created at the Walt Disney World in Orlando last season, both on and off the court, and for the most part, they succeeded. However, there were obviously things that they couldn’t plan for, like the strike players went on in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Following the initial walkout from the Milwaukee Bucks on August 26, the first round of the NBA playoffs was put on hold as players stood in solidarity with the Bucks. What happened in the days that followed is still unclear, but there were reports that players and, in some cases, entire teams that mulled leaving the bubble as a way to protest racial injustice and police brutality in the United States. The most notable team? The Los Angeles Lakers.
There were reports of James and the Lakers wanting to leave the bubble at the time, of course, but James finally confirmed those reports in a sit-down interview with the 44th President of the United States Barack Obama on “The Shop”:
“When Milwaukee did what they did — and rightfully so — we understood that there was no way none of use could go on the floor. We stand as a brotherhood, we are a brotherhood in our league and we stood with the Milwaukee Bucks and what they wanted to do. But there was a time where we were ready to leave too. The Lakers, myself included, were ready to leave.”
The Lakers ultimately decided to stay in the bubble, but not before James and a few of his closest friends had a conversation with Obama. According to James, Obama’s guidance played a big role in him feeling comfortable with resuming the postseason. So I guess you could unironically say “thanks, Obama.”
In all seriousness, the conversation between James and Obama really emphasized how much the NBA was affected by the Jacob Blake shooting, and how committed they were to doing something about it.
The first big step James took was putting pressure on teams to convert their owner-controlled arenas into voting centers. Since then, 20 teams have announced that their arenas or facilities will be used as polling centers or a ballot drop-off location. The Los Angeles Dodgers also converted their stadium to a voting center in partnership with James’ voting-rights group More Than A Vote.
Fore more voter information ahead of the Nov. 3 election, you can visit morethanavote.org.