The NBA’s recent fiasco involving their relationship with the Chinese Basketball Association seems largely settled, as Chinese authorities are quietly returning things to normal and the NBA and its players appear to have made good on apologies stemming from a tweet sent out by Rockets GM Daryl Morey about protesters in Hong Kong.
The distance from the initial event and the subsequent fallout has offered a chance for those on the inside to share what really went down in the tense hours where two NBA teams were in China for a preseason game they weren’t sure would even happen. And according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, one reason the players were so unified in their handling of the event is because they held a players-only meeting between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets to make it that way.
According to the report, LeBron James led that meeting and laid out what needed to happen next.
Lakers star LeBron James spoke up in front of everyone in the room and stated he believed that Silver and the NBA needed to explain and articulate the situation first, before the players would have to, multiple sources with direct knowledge of the meeting told The Athletic. James expressed concern that without the league being able to speak to media to address all of the questions and dynamics about China and the NBA, it was unfair for solely players to bear that responsibility.
Players organized the meeting because they weren’t sure what would happen and also if they would have to speak about the situation to the media. A press conference with Adam Silver in China was cancelled by the CBA, and though Silver had spoken in Japan about the incident and defended Morey, the players were not comfortable with speaking loudly on the topic without knowing if the league would support their stance. James also apparently wanted players on the same page moving forward, then laid out why he thought the situation was unfair to players.
Those sources also said that James explained to everyone in the room that he felt it would be unfair for Lakers and Nets players to explain this international issue in Shanghai before the NBA did — for several reasons: Their safety in a foreign country in China, the challenges of having young players on both rosters being thrust into a position of having to speak publicly about such a complex and layered topic and the added complication that the U.S. is currently embroiled in a trade negotiation with China.
It also makes sense that there was notable silence from NBA players in general in this instance. From the reports that have come out of the meeting, players realized this issue was far more complex than a domestic topic, even a political one that a player like James has spoken about publicly in the past. The NBA’s athletes wanted leadership from the Association, essentially, and given how big an issue was made out of a single tweet it makes sense that they were cautious.
Not everyone is satisfied by how the league and its players handled things, but now that the situation is largely in the rearview, it certainly makes sense. Players decided the position they were in wasn’t fair, and wanted to wait for the league to address things they didn’t feel they should have to talk about on their own.