But on Thursday, the league’s players elected to play on, and former Miami Heat superstar LeBron James was a major reason why, although at first he was in favor of canceling the rest of the season.
James’ former Heat teammate Udonis Haslem urged the four-time MVP to make a decision during an initial meeting on Wednesday evening.
“With emotions all over the place, Haslem pressed James and asked the star what he planned to do, reminding him that he’s the face of the league and it goes as he goes, sources said,” wrote Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.
“James then said, ‘We’re out,’ and walked out with almost all of his teammates following behind, sources said, with Dwight Howard being the only [Los Angeles] Laker who remained.
“The [Los Angeles] Clippers walked out as well, joining the Lakers as the only two of the 13 teams still in the bubble to vote against completing the rest of the playoffs.”
The Bucks’ boycott occurred in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha, Wis. on Sunday.
According to reports, James was upset the Bucks made the decision to not play without having a cohesive plan on what would be required for players to return to the court.
Despite his initial reluctance to resume the playoffs, cooler heads seemed to prevail on Thursday morning, when a second meeting was held.
“James and [Lou] Williams informed the committee that their teams were in,” wrote Haynes. “Now with the go-ahead from all 13 teams, [Chris] Paul and Andre Iguodala — the first VP of the players’ union — announced to the players that they would continue with the playoffs.”
Apparently, one factor in James’ about-face was a request he made of team owners during an additional meeting on Thursday afternoon.
“On the call, James was stern in calling on owners to do more in aiding the Black community and to play more of a role in using their resources to combat systemic racism, sources said,” wrote Haynes.
“James had already told players he was in, but depending on how the meeting went with owners, he would have reversed course if things went sideways, sources said.
“After the meeting, James felt comfortable with returning to the court, sources said. Owners promised that they would get to work on real action items that would benefit the Black community, sources said.”