LeBron James not in favor of NBA holding 2021 All-Star Game
By Melissa Rohlin
FOX Sports NBA reporter
LeBron James soldiered on.
When players questioned whether they should participate in the resumed NBA season last summer amid social unrest and a global pandemic, the face of the league chose to play, believing the season would amplify players' voices and the league's protective bubble would work.
When the league decided to start this season a mere 71 days after James led the Lakers to a championship during a grueling, nearly 100-day stay at Walt Disney World, James didn't speak out or protest by resting. In fact, he hasn't missed a single one of the Lakers' 23 games so far this season.
But he finally has had enough.
James, 36, made it extremely clear Thursday that he's very unhappy the league is moving toward holding an All-Star Game in March in Atlanta.
"I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star Game this year," James said in a video conference after the Lakers' 114-93 victory over the Denver Nuggets. "I don't even understand why we're having an All-Star Game."
Night after night, the league's most high-profile star has done his part in trying to keep television ratings up, pouring his heart out in nearly empty arenas with dazzling dunks, incredible dribble-drives and 3-pointers.
He has played in two sets of back-to-backs. He didn't miss a game on the Lakers' recent seven-game trip.
No one would've blamed the 18-year veteran if he needed to take some time off to give his bones a reprieve. But he pressed on, believing that he'd at least have a stretch of downtime to catch his breath in March.
When the NBA and the NBPA decided otherwise, he couldn't hide his disappointment.
"Pretty much kind of a slap in the face," James said.
Players are making huge sacrifices to comply with the league's health and safety protocols. Anthony Davis recently lamented that he didn't get to see his family when the Lakers played in his hometown of Chicago. James couldn't stay at his home during a game in Cleveland and had to celebrate his 36th birthday at a hotel in San Antonio.
But even more importantly, players are assuming risk by playing.
While the league has come up with extensive and exhaustive rules to protect them, 24 games have been postponed this season because of teams' being shorthanded after players tested positive for the virus or were required to sit out because of the league's contract tracing policy.
Some of those players have voiced their angst.
Miami Heat guard Avery Bradley, who opted not to participate in the NBA bubble because his young son has a history of respiratory illnesses, acknowledged in an interview with Yahoo! Sports that he was "upset" and "frustrated" when he tested positive for COVID-19 this season. He believes he contracted it at work.
Similarly, Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns, who lost seven family members to the virus, including his mother, tested positive last month and took to social media to express his fears, writing, in part, "It breaks my heart that my family, and particularly my father and sister continue to suffer from the anxiety that comes along with this diagnosis."
The NBA and NBPA are working on protocols to protect players during the All-Star events, which include holding the game and skills competitions on the same night and having players arrive Saturday and leave Sunday "under tight quarantines," according to ESPN.
But still, James doesn't think it's worth playing the game amid a pandemic, especially in a city with relatively loose COVID restrictions and in an arena that's one of only nine around the league that allows fans to attend home games.
He doesn't like the risk.
And he desperately needs a break.
After putting on a brave face for months, the face of the league finally publicly grimaced.
"I'll be there if I'm selected," he said. "But I'll be there physically but not mentally."
Melissa Rohlin is an NBA reporter for FOX Sports. She has previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News.