The first thing that will come to mind when we look back on the 2021 Playoffs will most likely be injuries – more precisely, how many star players went down. Some will use it as a segway to talk about an asterisk/footnote on whoever wins the Larry O’Brien trophy, and that stupid. But the fact an unprecedented number of key players were on the sidelines while their teams played.
One guy obviously struggling with an injury was LeBron James. His ankle wasn’t 100%, and since the Lakers lost in Round 1, his ego was apparently suffering as well. Not being in the spotlight after going to the Finals for a better part of a decade will do that to a guy. So LeBron tried to thrust himself into the spotlight with a tweet, explaining how he was smart and everyone else was greedy.
They all didn’t wanna listen to me about the start of the season. I knew exactly what would happen. I only wanted to protect the well being of the players which ultimately is the PRODUCT & BENEFIT of OUR GAME! These injuries isn’t just “PART OF THE GAME”. It’s the lack of PURE— LeBron James (@KingJames) June 16, 2021
It didn’t take long for everyone following the NBA to point out the players agreed to the condensed 72 game schedule to preserve the league’s financial stability. Shaq was the first prominent figure that criticized LeBron publically, pointing out that it’s quite tone-deaf when millionaires complain about work during a global pandemic.
“When you’re living in a world where 40 million people have been laid off and I’m making $200 million, you won’t get no complaining from me. I’d play back to back to back to back to back. I’m not knocking what anybody said, but me personally, I don’t complain and make excuses, because real people are working their tail off and all we gotta do is train two hours a day and then play a game for two hours at night and make a lot of money.”Shaquille O’Neal, CNBC
Every time LeBron tweets or says something, a part of it is legacy building and preparing the narrative for the GOAT discussions. “I won the two most difficult championships ever,” stuff like that. Well, this time, Chris Paul, Suns superstar and President of the Player’s Union, is also trying to make a case for his legacy. It seems like CP3 didn’t appreciate that his banana boat buddy was undermining the possible achievement of winning a ring in such a difficult season just to prop up his own storyline.
“Injuries are always unfortunate. You hate to have them. But just like when we went to the bubble, everything was discussed as far as the players and the full body of players. Everything that’s good for this guy and that guy might not be the same for that guy. But everything has always been a conversation, and it’s going to continue to be that way. So if people don’t like it, then you know everybody has the same opportunity to be a part of all these conversations.”Chris Paul
Paul wasn’t ready to point out his friend’s hypocrisy, so someone else from the Player’s Union did. NBPA director Michele Roberts spoke on the issue and what the conversation around starting the season in December was with Vincent Goodwill from Yahoo Sports. In the article, Goodwill points out LeBron’s loud criticism makes it seem Roberts and the NBPA leadership made decisions without taking input from players, particularly influential players such as Lebron.
But Roberts wasn’t sending off group texts and telling 450 players or so to just roll with her decisions. Chris Paul is the head of the union, and is close with James, so it’s tough to see James being blindsided in this instance. “I don’t run this union. I know that people think I do. But the players know better. They run this union. The recommendation to start in December came from the league. So the big ask was, could we start the games in December? And the answer was not yes from Michele. The decision to play or not to play comes from the players.”Michelle Roberts, Yahoo Sports
The core of LeBron’s criticism of the league is that they sacrificed the players’ health (labor) for the sake of money (owners). You can’t be a socially responsible humanitarian in the States, but go after Daryl Morey for his tweet and not being “educated enough.” Did we get an update on LeBron finding time to educate himself on Uyghurs in China? James loves to point out he does his research before speaking about something. Or the abuse that went on in NBA basketball camps in his largest market? What about working conditions across the Pacific? I can’t seem to find anything on LeBron asking the NBA or Nike to redefine their business models in markets he largely profits of.
James might’ve built an echo chamber of media partners since The Decision, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t connect the dots and ask tough questions. His choice never to address them or talk to someone who isn’t a friend or a business partner in a heavily controlled environment doesn’t hide his hypocrisy. It puts a spotlight on it.
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