LeBron James is doing everything he can to keep his mind and body sharp during the NBA hiatus.
He'd love to wake up tomorrow and for life to return to normal. But he's viewing this whole situation as a wakeup call of sorts.
"I believe that this is a roadblock for all of us, not only as Americans, but for the world," James said Wednesday in a Zoom conference call. "This is a roadblock, it's a test for all of us. It’s a test of our mental side, our spiritual side. It’s a test for everything. We had grew so comfortable with how we live our life, and everyday life, that it’s now time to take a pause."
James has maintained a positive attitude throughout the uncertainty of the NBA's suspension during the global COVID-19 pandemic even though it means he might not be able to finish his MVP-caliber season or take the Lakers to their first championship since 2010.
He credits meditation and deep-breathing exercises for keeping him centered. He also finds joy in his workouts, saying they immediately put him in a positive headspace. James is working out four to five days a week alongside his son, Bronny.
Even though James finished his 14-day quarantine at the end of March after two Lakers players tested positive for COVID-19, he's chosen to just be around his family for the time being and hasn't yet started working out with his longtime trainer Mike Mancias.
"Just keeping my body ready, keeping my mind ready for whenever our season resumes," James said. "But obviously we know what's most important. That's the safety of all Americans here in the United States of America and also all over the world and trying to control this thing and trying to get to a place where we can resume."
James said sometimes he closes his eyes for five or 10 minutes and just reflects on his life, reminding himself of the many blessings that both he and his family have received.
That being said, something will be greatly missing if he doesn't get to return to the court soon.
James had led the Lakers to the top record in the Western Conference at 49-14 before NBA commissioner Adam Silver paused the season. He was having an MVP-caliber season. If things remain unfinished, James acknowledged he'd feel a sense of loss.
"I don’t think I’ll be able to have any closure if we do not have an opportunity to finish this season," James said. "I will have some satisfaction, like I said, on just being with my brothers, being with my guys, thinking about some of the road trips that we had. Thinking about some of the games that we lost, thinking about some of the games that we won, some of the games that we overcame. And then everything that we’ve been going through this season, just the ups and downs—not only on the floor, but also off the floor. Everything that we’ve had to endure as the Laker faithful and us as players and the coaching staff and the organization, it’s been so much. So, closure? No. But to be proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish to this point, I’ll be able to look back and be like, ‘OK, we did something special in that small period of time.’"
The Lakers have stayed in close contact despite stay-at-home orders. The players have virtual workouts together over Zoom and chat often over their group text message chain. They're also frequently checking in with Lakers' coach Frank Vogel and general manager Rob Pelinka.
"We can have weekly conversations with our group, keeping our guys mentally as sharp as possible," James said. "Obviously we can't be together. We can't be on the court, practicing and things of that nature, but we can always think about the game. We can always work on our bodies, work on our minds throughout these times and just stay as sharp as we can for whenever this thing gets back going."
James, who initially said he wouldn't want to play without fans, now says that he's open to all options, including playing at a neutral site such as Las Vegas.
"Obviously the number one thing, like I said, is the safety and the well-being of all of us here in America first, and getting this pandemic under control," James said. "I believe once that's under control and they allow us to resume some type of activity, I would love to get the season back going. I feel like we're in a position where we can get back and start to compete for a championship, get back to doing what we love to do, making our Laker faithful proud of us, of being back on the floor. And if it's in one single isolated destination, if it's Las Vegas or somewhere else that can hold us and keep us in the best possible chance to be safe, not only on the floor, but also off the floor as well, then those conversations will be had."
He said he deeply misses sports and has rewatched a lot of classic games, reminiscing and remembering where he was at the time.
If there's an opportunity to play without fans, he said he'll do everything he can to remember the loud roars at Staples Center and the MVP chants before everything came to a screeching halt on March 11.
"If it comes to a point if we’re playing without our fans, we still know that we have Laker faithful with us in spirit," James said. "We know they’ll be home cheering us on, online, on their phones, on their tablets watching us playing. So hopefully we can bottle that energy that we know we’re getting from them."
James has entertained himself during the hiatus by playing cards with his family, drinking wine and binge-watching television.
He's even watched "Tiger King."
"Pretty much anything that has the word 'king' in it, I pretty much watch," James said with a laugh. “'Tiger King,' 'Lion King,' all of the kings."
James said the one silver lining to the suspension has been extra time with his family. Over his 17 season in the NBA, he's missed out on a lot.
James took both the Miami Heat and the Cleveland Cavaliers to The Finals eight straight seasons, meaning he's had much more time away from his family than the average NBA player.
He's trying to catch up on quality time now.
"I’m able to train with my boys," James said. "I’m able to have tea time and color with my daughter. I’m able to be with my wife on a day-to-day basis every single day, either watching the kids or watching a TV series from start (to finish); binge watching series and things of that nature. Playing video games with my kids. Playing card games with my wife and my family. So it’s definitely been a bit of a blessing to be able to be here 24/7, be here with your family and being able to – I don’t want to say ‘recoup’ the time, because that’s one thing you cannot do. Time waits for no man and you can’t do that. But to be able to appreciate it and be in this moment, it’s been pretty cool. Even though I’ve missed the game of basketball like none other."
Every morning when he wakes up, his three children put things into perspective for him.
"They’re just so appreciative of life and when you’re at those ages, you don’t have the burden of responsibility besides brushing your teeth, making up your bed, being a cool kid, being friendly to your friends," he said. "But when we’re in the household, being able to see my kids just wake up with that positive attitude helps."
James said if the season restarts, the Lakers' biggest challenge will be regaining their rhythm.
They had qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2013 and were on the verge of competing for their first championship in a decade.
"You kind of hear coaches always talk about slippage, it’s this inevitable thing that’s happening for us right now," James said. "... Because we’re not together, we’re not preparing, we’re not practicing, we don’t have the film sessions, we’re not preparing every single day for combat. So how long will it take for us to get back into a rhythm that will be the most challenging thing, I believe."
That being said, James said above all else, he's most concerned about everyone's safety during this time.
Basketball is a very distant second.
"We can all agree that the wellbeing and the health of all of us is what’s most important," James said. "And when we get that under control we can tackle everything else."