NBA veteran Austin Rivers recently shared a fascinating story about how the fate of the league’s Orlando, Fla. bubble in 2020 was essentially in LeBron James’ hands at one point.
“When I was in the bubble, we had a meeting, a players-only meeting, to ask whether we wanted to continue playing or not,” Rivers said. “This is after the [Milwaukee] Bucks just decided not to show up and not play that one game, and everybody kinda was like, ‘Wait, wait, what’s going on?’ We had a players-only meeting, and pretty much everyone was giving their opinions, but nobody was listening. We were all just waiting to see if LeBron was gonna play or not. And if he wasn’t, then people were just gonna move on and not wanna play. Udonis Haslem literally grabbed the mic and gets up and goes, ‘Ayo, big bro, what we doing?’ … He goes, ‘If you ain’t playing, the Heat are out.’ And he drops the mic.”
NBA players began their protest in the bubble after Jacob Blake, a Black man in Kenosha, Wis., was shot in the back by police seven times.
The NBA and its players eventually came to an agreement to resume the season. Throughout the entirety of the league’s time in the bubble, social justice was a priority, and the protest over the shooting of Blake will likely always be remembered as a key part of the bubble era.
James and his Los Angeles Lakers made the most of their time in Orlando. They ran through the 2020 NBA Playoffs, eliminating the Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets on the Western Conference side before beating the Miami Heat in six games in the NBA Finals.
Rivers’ story is a clear indication of how much James’ voice is valued around the NBA. Having been in the league since 2003, the future Hall of Famer has seen enough to be a leader in just about every situation.
The bubble was an unforgettable time for multiple reasons and certainly gave basketball fans something to enjoy during a difficult period around the world and in the U.S.
Currently, the 2023 NBA Playoffs are ongoing, though James and the Lakers saw their campaign come to an end recently. If James returns for another NBA season, he and his squad will look to put together a special run in the 2023-24 campaign in the same way they were able to get the job done in 2020.