“I was skeptic[al] at first,” said James, “but I did my research.” The Lakers superstar said he decided it was the best decision “for my family and for my friends, that’s why I decided to do it.”
Throughout the past year, James has been evasive about his vaccination status. But now some cities — such as Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco — have vaccination requirements for indoor “mega events,” which include NBA games.
San Francisco requires anyone age 12 and over attending an indoor event with more than 1,000 people to provide proof of vaccination or proof of a medical or religious exemption. That includes games at Chase Center, home of the Warriors.
The NBA denied Golden State swingman Andrew Wiggins’ request for a religious exemption to vaccination. That means he may not be able to practice or play in his team’s home games this year unless he meets San Francisco’s strict requirements for inoculation at indoor events. The rules apply only to players on home teams, with visitors exempt.
The league’s players association has claimed 90% of its players are vaccinated. Negotiations are ongoing between the NBA and the union on Covid-19 protocols. The players association has held firm in the contention that its players not be required to be vaxed. NBA players will not be mandated to get vaccinated against COVID-19, league sources have told ESPN.
Lakers officials previously, and James today, said they expect their roster to be fully-vaccinated by opening night.
“We’re excited we gave ourselves another opportunity to be available for each other,” said James, stressing that an important part of his job as a leader was to be available for his team.
James’ former Cavaliers teammate Kyrie Irving, who now plays for the Brooklyn Nets, is one of the most prominent players who have not revealed their vaccination status, and Irving was not at the Nets media day this week. He later declined to discuss his vaccination status on a Zoom with reporters. He repeatedly asked reporters who raised the topic to respect his privacy.
New York City requires pro athletes who play indoors to show proof of at least one vaccine shot.
The Nets play the Lakers this Sunday in the marquee matchup of the NBA’s preseason openers. The teams also face each other in the spotlight game of the league’s Christmas Day schedule. The Nets are still formidable without Irving, but having him out removes LeBron vs. Kyrie storyline and also softens the matchups’ appeal for viewers as “measuring stick games.”
When the subject of players who aren’t vaccinated was broached today the Lakers leader said, “That’s a personal decision.”
James was then pressed as to whether Covid vaccinations were an important enough social issue to speak out about, as he has on other topics such as racism. James said vaccination did not equate to the social issues he has been vocal about. Someone’s body is their choice, he said.
Bruce Haring contributed to this report.