LeBron James Discusses Wild Past Few Days After Lakers Clinch Their First-Round Series
After winning the Lakers' first playoff series since 2012, LeBron James spent nearly 20 minutes talking about how there almost wasn't a postseason.
The Lakers almost didn't play Game 5. They almost didn't beat the Portland Trail Blazers, 131-122, winning their first-round playoff series, 4-1.
Just three days earlier, LeBron James acknowledged everything came close to disintegrating after the Milwaukee Bucks decided to stay in their locker room Wednesday in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting.
James said he was never upset over the Bucks' decision, adding that the NBA is a brotherhood and "we stood in solidarity with them."
But it was a spur-of-the-moment move, and James didn't understand what came next.
"From that point on, my mind began to figure out what is the plan going forward, and if we don’t have a plan, then what are we talking about? Why are we still here?" said James, who had 36 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists Saturday. "That’s where my mind went to. At one point there was no plan of going forward, there was no plan of action. I’m not, me personally, I’m not that type of guy. I’m not the type of guy who, one, doesn’t have a plan, and then isn’t ready to act on it as far as action. So we had a couple days to kind of figure it out."
After an intense three-hour meeting Wednesday, James voted to stop playing. The Lakers and Clippers followed suit.
"It was a lot of up-and-down emotions," said Anthony Davis, who had 43 points on 14-for-18 shooting, including going 4-for-6 from beyond the three-point line Saturday. "Especially with our team. We just didn’t know what we wanted to do at that point."
Davis said the whole evening was a bit discombobulating, starting when people began knocking on the Lakers' doors as they were taking their pregame naps to alert them that the Bucks boycotted Game 5. The team held an impromptu meeting to discuss whether they'd play that evening, eventually also deciding to sit out their game.
"Even during the meeting, I was still kind of sleeping and unaware of everything," Davis said.
Ultimately, after a night's sleep, James decided the smartest thing would be to keep playing. And the players voted to resume the playoffs.
Over that hectic period, James spoke to a lot of people to get advice. He even talked to former President Barack Obama along with a small group of NBA players.
"He’s a great man," James said. "I wish he was still the President of the United States."
Even though Wednesday's events were highly stressful, James said they were necessary, adding that players felt as though they had lost sight of their mission.
"Yes, we’ve been using our voice, and yes we’ve been using our platform and trying to create change, but there’s an opportunity to actually come up sometimes and just take a deep breath -- and that was the moment," James said. "And that was the moment. And we all from a whole league, not only the players, but the coaches, the owners, you guys, everyone got an opportunity just to exhale and say, ‘What are we really doing? What are we really trying to create change and have action?’ That gave us an opportunity."
The players came out of that with a sharper resolve. A clearer plan. They got the owners on board. And they captured the eyes of the nation.
On Friday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA executive director Michele Roberts released a joint statement in which they agreed to establish a social justice coalition, work to convert arenas into voting centers in every city where a franchise owns and controls the property and include advertising spots that promote "greater civic engagement" during all playoff games.
When asked what would happen if the owners don't stick to their word, Davis didn't hesitate in his response.
"We do have the leverage," Davis said. "And after the meetings, we’re very confident that they will. The conversations went well. And if they don’t, we won’t play again. It’s as simple as that."
It's been a crazy few months for NBA players.
James, who has been steadfastly for the resumed NBA season from the get-go, acknowledged he's had many moments where he wanted to leave the NBA bubble. Return home. See his family. Be back in the world.
That being said, he wasn't planning to leave the bubble before the Bucks made their move Wednesday, even though he's fantasized about it.
"I don’t think there’s not one person that has not had a mind that says, ‘Oh, I got to get the hell out of here,’" James said, laughing. "But it’s not because of what transpired. But yeah, yeah, it probably crosses my mind about once a day, for sure."
But James, the face of the league, said has a responsibility to think about what's in the best interest of of every player, not just himself.
"I pick my moments," he said. "I pick my battles. And I kind of listen and see what’s going on and things of that nature and then I’ll voice my opinion and what I believe is the best. You gotta understand that for me, personally, it’s not just about me when it comes to this league, it’s about the other 300-plus guys that I got to look out for as well. The same way that the OGs and the vets looked out for guys like myself and D[wyane] Wade and [Car]Melo [Anthony[ and [Chris] Bosh when all of us came into the league and so on and so on. You understand that because this league will continue to go on well after you. And for me, I just want to leave her in a better place as much as I can when I’m done."
James decided that the best thing was to stick together.
To fight together for a common cause.
After all, not everyone has a combined 117 million followers on Twitter and Instagram.
"A lot of people don’t have individual platforms when they go home," James said. "A lot of people get muted when they go home, unfortunately. But when we’re here on this stage I think there’s just no way you can do that because, as the Golden State Warriors said for years and years and years, there is strength in numbers. And that was the case here."
NBA players are competing for a championship.
And they're doing it while also trying to change the world.
It's been hard. But James hopes it will all be worth it.
He wants to make history.
"Obviously this moment is so much bigger than us playing basketball," James said, "So hopefully the initiatives that we came together, that we partnered with, voting and the sites and arenas and things of that nature, hopefully years on down the line when America is in a better place, that you can look back to this moment and be like that was one of the catapults that kind of got it going."