When the NBA playoffs appeared to be on the brink of cancellation, there was a lot of reporting around what Lakers star LeBron James was saying behind closed doors. First that he wanted to cancel the remainder of the season, and then that he had come around after talking to his fellow players.
However, it sounds like James wasn’t the only Laker to initially argue for the end of the NBA bubble. According to reporting from Tania Ganguli and Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times, two of his veteran teammates also thought the league should end the season to continue its protest of systemic racism and police brutality:
After a night’s sleep, the Lakers met again as a team. Players from other teams filed into the general meeting space late Thursday morning and waited for the Lakers to join them.
Howard and Lakers guard Rajon Rondo, who is from Louisville, Ky., where Taylor was killed, had been the two most prominent players in favor of not finishing the season. That group felt they would better serve the community on the front lines.
But more of them wanted to play with so much on the line financially and the ability to continue having a platform to speak; not to mention the chance to win a championship.
Howard and Rondo’s positions here are not entirely surprising. Howard was one of the most vocal Lakers against the restart due to social justice concerns before teams even got to the bubble, and while Rondo was less outspoken, he was one of the few players to admit they had safety concerns with the plan. In conjunction with where he’s from and the proximity he likely feels to Taylor’s tragedy as a result, him thinking the players should stop to focus on advocacy isn’t shocking.
In the end, though, the players won significant concessions from the league due to their wildcat strike, and that — in addition to the factors Ganguli and Turner mentioned — were evidently enough to get the entire team (and league) to buy back in and continue the playoffs.
Even with things restarting, though, Rondo and Howard’s concerns were completely fair. Everyone processes all of this stuff differently, and them feeling like they wanted to do more than just play basketball is an understandable impulse. In the end, they opted to stick with their teammates, but they don’t deserve criticism for being willing to voice a dissenting opinion about what the best course of action was.