The COVID-19 vaccine has been the hot topic over the first week of NBA training camps. While most players have been vaccinated, there are still some notable holdouts and the league has not yet reached the 100 percent vaccination rate they are striving towards.
While being vaccinated is obviously important in terms of trying to slow down a pandemic that’s still causing issues around the globe, it’s also important from a basketball perspective. Unvaccinated players are subject to more stringent guidelines and won’t be able to spend as much time with their teammates, and are also more at risk for getting COVID-19 and missing games. Plus, in certain locations like New York and San Francisco, players must be vaccinated in order to play in their home arenas.
That’s why there was a notable uptick in vaccination rates once camps opened. Even Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins, who previously asked for a religious exemption, has now gotten the vaccine. Still, while players are largely getting on board, many have been hesitant to encourage others to follow their lead, and have labeled it a person decision.
That includes Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, who said that he is vaccinated but does not want to be a “public advocate” for the cause.
“I can speak about myself, I think everyone has their own choice to do what they feel is right for themselves and their families,” LeBron said. “I know that I was very skeptical about it all, but after doing my research, I felt like it was best suited for not only me, but my friends. That’s why I decided to do it.”
“You guys know me, anything I talk about, I don’t talk about other people and what they should do. I speak for me and my family. That’s what it’s about,” James continued. “We’re talking about individual bodies. 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. That would be like me talking about if somebody should take this job or not. Listen, you have to do what’s best for you and your family.
“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.”
During a recent television appearance, Boston Celtics big man Enes Kanter called out LeBron for taking that stance.
“When I heard it, I was very disappointed, and it’s ridiculous,” Kanter said. “Obviously, LeBron James, he’s one of the faces of the league, and he should be the first one to go out there and say, ‘Listen, everyone. I got the vaccine, and I’m encouraging everyone, my community, everyone, basketball fans, non-basketball fans and sports fans are just going out there and get this vaccine, so we can save other lives.’ When I heard that, I just couldn’t believe it. But I hope he can educate himself about this vaccination and inspire and encourage other people around him.”
Earlier this year, as the COVID-19 vaccines were first being released, the NBA hoped that star players would appear in public service announcements to help encourage others to get their shots. However, most were reportedly reluctant to do so. Instead, the league turned to former legends like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Russell, along with San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.