LeBron James described 2020 as the worst year of his life on Saturday, with the Los Angeles Lakers superstar losing two of his black heroes just seven months apart.
James honoured actor Chadwick Boseman prior to the Lakers game five first-round playoff contest against Portland by folding his arms across his chest in the Wakanda salute from the Black Panther movie.
Boseman, star of the ground-breaking superhero blockbuster, died at the age of 43 this week after a battle with cancer. His death comes seven months after former Laker icon Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash.
“To lose the Black Panther and the Black Mamba in the same year, we can all agree that 2020 is the (expletive) year … in my 35 years, there is no question,” said James.
James also talked Saturday about stepping up his leadership both on and off the court in the NBA’s pandemic bubble, using his platform to ignite social justice change in communities across the United States.
“It is great to be back on the floor. But more important it is good to have a (social justice) plan and execute it and put into action right away,” said James, who scored 36 points as the Lakers reached the second round of the playoffs with a 131-122 win in over the Trail Blazers.
James this week helped negotiate the NBA’s restart after the players decided to boycott three days of playoff games following the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Wisconsin.
He was part of an initiative Saturday to get Staples Center and other NBA arenas designated as polling stations for the US presidential election this year.
James, who is no fan of US President Donald Trump, has spoken out numerous times since the Black Lives Matter protests started that change can happen when Americans use their right to vote.
“Having NBA arenas for polling sites is unbelievable,” James said. “November is just around the corner and we all understand how important that is.”
James said the players did consider not playing any more games this season, but added he was confident throughout the talks that they could work out a deal with the owners.
“There was some doubt,” James said. “It is great that we put together a plan. We are going to execute it. That is what we have been able to do the last few days.
“With solidarity we stood with our brothers from Milwaukee. We stood with them as a league.”
James said one of the problems with the way the NBA’s bubble was set up is that they are dealing with a busier game schedule than normal.
“We had a mission. That mission was lost in translation,” he said. “When the playoffs started. We were playing every other day.
“When we are trying to create (social justice) change we can’t lose site of what the main thing is. This was an opportunity to take a deep breath.
“It was the moment to just exhale and say what are we really doing and are we really trying to create change.”
James, who is a father, admitted he has thought about leaving the bubble environment in Orlando, Florida, but more so because of reasons other than political ones.
“I have had numerous nights and days, thinking about leaving the bubble. Everyone has. But not because of what has transpired.
“It crossed my mind for sure.”