With a number of former lottery picks dealing with serious injuries to start their careers, some of the game’s most exciting talent has had its development significantly stunted. Youth basketball players are subjected to more and more of a workload as the years go on, playing in a number of tournaments that involve playing multiple games in a day.
Lakers superstar LeBron James has a pair of sons playing on the high-level AAU basketball circuit and inching closer to possibly joining the NBA themselves. Naturally, with the issue of load management a hot button topic in sports these days, James shed some light on the state of coaching and load management across AAU basketball.
Lakers’ LeBron James Calls out AAU Coaches, Wants Load Management
In an interview with Yahoo Sports, James made his thoughts abundantly clear regarding both load management and the state of AAU basketball.
“These kids are going into the league already banged up, and I think parents and coaches need to know [that] … well, AAU coaches don’t give a f—,” James told Yahoo Sports. “AAU coaches couldn’t give a damn about a kid and what his body is going through.”
However, James was far from finished when discussing his thoughts on the matter. Going in-depth as to just how he – as a parent of two sons on the AAU circuit – felt about the workload of high-level youth basketball players:
“I think [AAU] has something to do with it, for sure,” James said. “It was a few tournaments where my kids — Bronny and Bryce — had five games in one day and that’s just f—ing out of control. That’s just too much. And there was a case study where I read a report. I don’t know who wrote it not too long ago, and it was talking about the causes and [kid’s] bodies already being broken down and they contributed it to AAU basketball and how many games that these tournaments are having for the [financial benefit]. So, I’m very conscious for my own son because that’s all I can control, and if my son says he’s sore or he’s tired, he’s not playing.”
The whole interview is well worth a read and James brings up a number of valid points about just how taxing the workload put on young players can be.
Notable Young NBA Players Dealing with Injuries
A number of elite young players have entered the league banged up over the past few seasons. From 2017, former number one pick Markelle Fultz has only recently started playing meaningful NBA minutes while second pick Lonzo Ball has suffered numerous ankle injuries over the course of his young career, never playing more than 52 games in a season.
From 2018, a number of lottery picks have yet to find their fully-healthy footing in the NBA. Third overall pick Marvin Bagley III missed 20 games last season and is currently sitting out with a thumb injury. Sixth overall pick Mo Bamba has only appeared in 55 total games over his two seasons. Michael Porter Jr. was previously the top-rated player in the class coming out of high school and dropped all the way to 14th due to his injury history. Porter Jr. has only appeared in five total games in his career – all coming this season.
Perhaps most notable – and the freshest in the minds of the nation – is Zion Williamson. The first overall pick coming out of Duke made headlines last season when he suffered an injury blowing out his shoes on national TV. Williamson was injured in summer league and later again in the preseason. Williamson is currently expected to return sometime in December.