Los Angeles Lakers star forward LeBron James entered the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols indefinitely, forcing him to miss several games, serving as a reminder of the tightrope pro athletes have walked since the beginning of the pandemic.
The Associated Press reported that James, who has said he is vaccinated against coronavirus, entered the protocols on Tuesday, forcing him to sit out the game against the Sacramento Kings. Entering the protocols means that he has either tested positive for COVID-19, has been exposed to someone with it, or had an inconclusive result. Neither the NBA nor the Lakers have made an official confirmation on James status, despite several reports on it.
The league requires vaccinated players like James to enter the protocols after a positive or inconclusive test result, according to The Los Angeles Times. Vaccinated players can return to the basketball courts if they test negative for the virus on consecutive tests 24 hours apart or if it’s been 10 days without symptoms.
Lakers teammate Anthony Davis said James told him that he was “asymptomatic,” the Times reported.
“It was something that was unexpected for sure,” Davis said. “Found out this morning. Did more testing and we didn’t really hear anything afterwards. Woke up from a nap and any media outlet that covers anything had it on and said that he was in the health and safety protocols. ... He’s out how many days we don’t know. It all depends on his situation. ... He said he was good. I think he’s asymptomatic, which is a good sign. But we want to make sure that he gets back. Health is most important.”
Before Tuesday night’s game against the Sacramento Kings, Lakers coach Frank Vogel said that James entering the protocols was “a huge loss,” according to The Washington Post.
“It’s disappointing,” Vogel continued. “We just want the best for him right now. That’s where our thoughts are. We have a ‘next man up’ mind-set.”
The game turned out well for the Lakers, as the team avenged an earlier loss to the Kings with a 117-92 victory over Sacramento. Over the next two weeks, the Lakers will play six times, including a game against their cross-town rivals the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday.
According to the Post, the entire Lakers team was vaccinated before the season began to comply with Los Angeles’ vaccination requirements.
“We’re talking about individual bodies,” James said at Lakers media day in September. “We’re not talking about something political, or racism or police brutality. We’re talking about people’s bodies and well-being. I don’t think I personally should get involved in what other people should do for their bodies and livelihoods. … I know what I did for me and my family. I know what some of my friends did for their families. But as far as speaking for everybody and their individualities, and things they want to do, that’s not my job.”
James has played in 11 of the team’s 23 games so far this season. He missed several games because of injuries to his right ankle and abdomen, as well as a one-game suspension in November for throwing an elbow to the face of Detroit Pistons’ Isaiah Stewart that left the center bloodied.