LeBron James talks NBA All-Star Game concerns, COVID-19 vaccine, voting and Lakers’ play

LeBron James joined a conference call to promote Sunday's NBA All-Star Game. In that same call, however, James reiterated his concerns about the league even having the game.

"Obviously I love our league. I love the game of basketball at the highest level and doing what I love to do," James said Sunday. "I just think under these circumstances with what we’re going through still with the pandemic and everything with the season, I just thought we could’ve looked at it a little bit differently. But that’s out of my hands. I can only control what I can control."

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver defended the decision, saying the reasons went beyond the economic benefits of maximizing the league's television contract with TNT. Silver argued the game would enhance the league’s global brand. He added the NBA and various sponsors are donating more than $3 billion to HBCUs, and giving them additional exposure through the game’s telecast.

Still, the NBA escaped a possible scare when Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid and forward Ben Simmons were ruled out of Sunday’s game after being exposed to a barber who tested positive for COVID-19. The NBA said in a statement that Embiid and Simmons were exposed in Philadelphia as opposed to Atlanta. The NBA has required All-Star participants to stay quarantined at a private hotel only with select family and friends in between events, while adhering to daily testing and safety protocols. Yet, the late scratch to Embiid and Simmons captured the risks of hosting even a closed All-Star Game during the coronavirus pandemic.

LeBron expressed his feelings about Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons having to miss Sunday night’s NBA All-Star Game due to COVID-19 protocol after their barber tested positive for the virus. pic.twitter.com/mdlmFLvLDq

"Obviously something like that happening is something we all thought could possibly happen," James said. "I hate the fact that Joel and Ben would not be able to play today because of that. Best wishes to them obviously, even though they’re not the ones that tested positive, but with all the contact tracing and all that mess. But we’re here."

So with James isolated in his hotel room in Atlanta, the Los Angeles Lakers star used his time to speak out on various topics pertaining to the COVID-19 vaccine, basketball and social justice causes.

Silver has said the NBA won’t require players to take the vaccine, but noted the league’s encouragement because of its effectiveness as well as the likelihood it will lead to reduced safety protocols. Does that mean James feels comfortable taking the vaccine once it becomes available?

"That’s a conversation that my family and I will have. Pretty much keep that to a private thing," James said. “Obviously I saw Adam had his comments about the vaccination. But things like that, when you decide to do something, that’s a conversation between you and your family and not for everybody. I’ll keep it that way."

James reiterated the importance of his "More Than a Vote" initiative even four months removed from the presidential election between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Although James considered increased voting turnout as critical to ensure Trump was not reelected, the Lakers star noted various governments have tried to pass new voting restrictions that would suppress voter turnout in the Black community.

"The work is not completed. It’s never completed," James said. "Even if you have a victory, it’s never completed. We just want people to know even though with the election that happened, and a lot of it happened in our favor in November, there’s still more work to be done."

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