LeBron James is the face of the NBA. One could argue that’s been the case since he was drafted with the No. 1 overall pick in 2003. But the Lakers star has never used his influence on the league more than he has this season.
While it might not be that simple, seeing as the players do have a union, there’s no denying that James’ voice holds a little more weight in these decisions than other players. It’s why his vote to not to finish the playoffs on Wednesday sent shockwaves throughout the NBA.
James has since changed his stance, but it took some convincing from his peers, according to a report from The Athletic:
The two LA teams are on board with resuming, including LeBron James, who was a driving force behind the Lakers’ original vote. Players who are close to James continued talking with him throughout the night after the meeting Wednesday, expressing their concerns about potentially ending the season.
Had James decided not to play out the rest of the season, the Lakers would have followed James’ lead, according to Kyle Goon of the OC Register:
Several Lakers did want to play, sources told Southern California News Group, and several players wanted not only to win a championship, but to continue to use basketball as a platform to speak out on injustices. But they also haven’t been willing to go against James, and whatever he wanted to do, they were going to ride alongside him.
The Athletic provided more details on James’ current state of mind, and how we got here:
His frustration, per sources both in and outside of his camp, was not with those who wanted to to continue to play; it was with the lack of a plan going forward after the Bucks caught most of their playing brethren off guard with their decision to walk out Wednesday. The Lakers’ team vote Wednesday night, per a source, was not unanimous; some players wanted to keep playing, while others wanted to walk. And, as ever, people then looked to James.
“‘They’re going with whatever you (James) want to do,’” a source said. “‘Do you want to play or do you not want to play?’” And that’s when James figuratively said ‘let me sleep on it,’ and left the meeting, only to continue the discussion into the night.
That included the ongoing discussions with James. “He wants to play,” one source with knowledge of his thinking said Thursday.
The Lakers are expected to play Game 5 of their playoff matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday. The game was originally scheduled for Wednesday, August 26, but both teams decided to not play in solidarity with the Milwaukee Bucks, who sat out of their Game 5 matchup with the Orlando Magic as a way to protest racial inequality and police brutality in the United States.
However, before the NBA playoffs resume, players will meet with team owners on Thursday to discuss how they can come together and be more socially active during the playoffs. It would be shocking if James wasn’t a prominent voice in that meeting, too.