Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James said Saturday that he won’t wear a social justice message on the back of his jersey when the NBA season resumes.
James explained why he passed when he spoke with reporters on a video conference call Saturday.
“I don’t need to have something on the back of my jersey for people to understand my mission or know what I’m about and what I’m here to do,” James said.
The Lakers are slated to open the restarted season on July 30 against the Los Angeles Clippers at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Fla.
The NBA is allowing players to sport a message on the back of their jerseys instead of their last name. James scanned the list of approved phrases but didn’t see one that appealed to him.
“It was no disrespect to the list that was handed out to all the players,” James said. “I commend anyone that decides to put something on the back of their jersey. It’s just something that didn’t really seriously resonate with my mission, with my goal.
“I would have loved to have a say-so on what would have went on the back of my jersey. I had a couple things in mind, but I wasn’t part of that process, which is OK. I’m absolutely OK with that.”
Among the phrases reportedly agreed upon by the NBA and the NBA Players association include: Black Lives Matter; Say Their Names; I Can’t Breathe; and Respect Us.
In fact, Lakers center JaVale McGee chose “Respect Us” for the back of his jersey.
“I definitely feel like respect is a key factor in social injustices,” McGee told reporters on Saturday. “I feel like we definitely need to get equality. We definitely need to get the same respect everybody else does.”
Saturday also marked the Lakers’ first group practice for the preparation of the upcoming restart. It came four months to the day since the NBA season was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It gave me an opportunity to be home and make up a lot of time that I’ve lost over the years because I’ve been playing in this league and striving to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest, to ever play this game,” said James, a 16-time All-Star averaging 25.7 points, 10.6 assists and 7.9 rebounds this season. “So sacrificing my family at times was the most challenging and hardest part of it all.”
The Lakers (49-14) hold a 5 1/2-game lead over the Clippers for the top seed in the Western Conference.