It was not a stellar playoff debut for LeBron James and the Lakers. Having earned the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs with their sterling record before the novel coronavirus put the NBA season on hold in March and having been underwhelming since the season started over again in Orlando on July 30, the Lakers came into the postseason with some concerns. Playing against a very hot No. 8-seeded Portland team only heightened those concerns.
Losing Game 1 in what was nearly a wire-to-wire victory for Portland adds a big red flag to those concerns.
But after the game, even after a tough loss to start what might be his last best chance to win a championship, James addressed the media wearing a hat that continued to push the social justice message that has been so important to James individually and to the NBA as a whole in the league’s so-called Orlando “bubble.”
James wore a bright red mock Make America Great Again hat—the hat that symbolizes the campaign and presidency of Donald Trump—except with the words “Great Again” crossed out. In place of those words: “Arrest The Cops Who Killed Breonna Taylor.”
Here it is:
And another look:
Breonna Taylor was Killed in March
James, with many NBA players, has spoken about Taylor’s plight before.
Taylor was shot and killed in her apartment in March by Louisville police who were executing a no-knock warrant. She was not suspected of any crime. One of the police officers involved in her killing was fired and two were reassigned, but none have been arrested despite months of calls for those arrests. Taylor received no medical attention for 20 minutes after she was shot.
Several NBA players were on a Zoom call last month with Taylor’s family, promising that the league would keep pressure up on officials in Louisville and in Kentucky.
James spoke about Taylor after the game.
“The situation that is going on in Louisville, Kentucky, an innocent woman being killed by the name of Breonna Taylor, a woman who had a bright future and her life was taken away from her,” James said. “And there have been no arrests, no justice not only for her but for her family. We want to continue to shed light on that situation. It was just unjust. That’s just what it is about.”
In his previous comments on Taylor, James added, “We want the cops arrested who committed that crime.”
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James has been part of the NBA’s push to deliver messages of social importance throughout the league’s return to play weeks. In May, when the league was considering to come back and play out the postseason, James and other star players got on a conference call. James made clear at that time that the league could do more for social change by playing that it could by calling off the season.
Other players bought into that outlook and eventually, the NBA returned to action, albeit in the odd new bubble atmosphere.
Now James, even in light of an obviously disappointing loss, one in which he scored 23 points with 17 rebounds and 16 assists as his teammates shot just 32.5% from the field, is still speaking out on Taylor. That is likely small consolation for Laker fans eager to get going with Round 2 of the playoffs, but until the Lakers start winning games, James will continue to champion causes that have had a personal impact on his life.