With the NBA season hanging by a thread, LeBron James was put on the spot.
Following the surprise postponement of Wednesday’s game between the Bucks and Magic — sparking a wave of postponements across sports in support of the social justice movement — the league’s players met to discuss the next step. Heat forward Udonis Haslem, 40, turned to the league’s biggest star and pressed him on his stance.
As the face of the league, James was reminded by his former teammate that his decision would likely determine the fate of the season, according to a Yahoo Sports report.
“We’re out,” James replied, prematurely leaving the meeting with all his teammates, other than Dwight Howard.
The Clippers joined, too, making the L.A. teams the only ones of the 13 remaining in the bubble to vote against continuing the season.
However, a night of sleep changed the mindset of most Lakers, who wanted to finish the season. James was willing to support the wishes of the majority.
“LeBron’s emotions got the best of him [Wednesday] and today he calmed down,” a source familiar with the meetings told the L.A. Times. “He talked to a lot of different people. Yeah, he changed his mind about playing, but he was always for what everyone else wanted to do, whatever the majority was. It wasn’t until what Milwaukee had going on that kind of sent him over.”
The Bucks, whose decision stemmed from the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, surprised the other teams — including the Magic — with its unilateral decision shortly before its scheduled Game 5 tip-off.
James, along with other players, were bothered that no long-term plan was in place with the postponement, according to the report, citing the need for unity among the players and a clear set of demands, if the season was to continue. The Bucks reportedly expected to simply take a forfeit and didn’t envision triggering a shutdown of sports.
“We’re dealing with crazy videos, being in this bubble,” another person told the L.A. Times. “It’s a lot of stuff we’re going through right now. Emotions are high. Milwaukee sitting out and not letting anybody know, then they want to play and that flip-flop.
“The whole thing is, what if it happens again, someone else gets shot in L.A., are we not going to play? Or in Utah, or Portland.”
Chris Paul, the president of the players union, spoke with James, his longtime friend, late Wednesday night. James agreed the Lakers would attend another meeting with the other teams Thursday morning, when it was decided play would continue.
Come Thursday night, James spoke with team owners in a “stern” manner, according to the Yahoo report, asking the billionaires to provide more aid for underserved Black communities and support foundations fighting systemic racism. The owners agreed to help.
Had James not heard what he sought, he reportedly was willing to walk away from the season again.