During a conference call organized by Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving on Friday night, multiple members of the Los Angeles Lakers — including veteran center Dwight Howard — revealed that they think it might be better if players don’t finish the NBA season and instead focus on continuing to pursue social justice and combat systemic racism. LeBron James was reportedly not among them.
James apparently wasn’t even on the call, and Sam Amick of The Athletic reported why:
Because sources say James, whose Lakers have as good a chance at the title as any of the 22 teams invited to Walt Disney World, believes playing in Orlando won’t deter his ability to continue inspiring change.
He wants to keep making his mark off the court. He wants to play basketball. And as has always been the case, he clearly believes he can do both at the same time.
We should note here that James also has another compelling motivation to finish the season: At 35 years old, none of us know how many prime years he has left. Of course he wants to complete a season in which he has a chance to add a fourth title to his resume, and raise his first banner as a Laker.
But as noted in our blog on James not joining the other Lakers who are considering sitting out, these are not binary pursuits. James is as committed to activism on behalf of the black community as any player, just this week announcing that he had started an organization to combat voter suppression and make a positive change in the United States.
In the above photo used for this post, James can be seen in an “I CAN’T BREATHE” shirt — on the court as he wants to be now — raising awareness of the death of Eric Garner, who was killed at the hands of police in 2014. Garner said those words as he was choked to death on camera as other officers looked on, calling out for help and mercy with the same words George Floyd would utter as he was killed by police last month, sparking the powerful demonstrations against systemic racism and police brutality that James and his teammates all want to support today in different ways. It’s far from the only cause James has spoken out for, and it’s clear that he is as invested in this fight as anyone, financially and with his actions.
What’s not clear is the right way to go forward, and I’m not going to pretend to have the answers on that. Players around the NBA are going to have to decide that for themselves over the days to come. But just as we shouldn’t crucify those who want to seek justice by sitting out, we also shouldn’t condemn the ones who share James’ opinion that they can advocate just as hard on the court. All that’s clear is that whether they want to dribble or sit out, none of these players are going to shut up. That commitment to advocacy is to be commended, in whatever form it takes.