What was intended to be another goodwill visit to China instead was marred by a national incident that left the NBA, Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets in a difficult position.
Friction arose when Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey voiced his support in a now-deleted tweet that backed the Hong Kong protestors. That set into a motion a series of events that put the Lakers and Nets at risk of having their games canceled.
They ultimately played in Shanghai and Shenzhen, but all media availability during the trip canceled. LeBron James, who regularly has used his platform to address social matters, spoke about the Lakers’ trip for the first time on Monday.
He was critical of Morey for not taking into account the potential fallout of his tweet, and commended NBA commissioner Adam Silver for his handling of a difficult situation. James did caution it was too early to determine if there may be fallout from the tension.
However, he also stopped short of ruling out potential future visits to China for his personal brand. “For me personally, I’ve always been welcomed with open arms. I’ve been to China over 15 to 20 times, and the main reason I’ve always wanted to go back to China is because the game of basketball,” James said.
“The game of basketball has brought people together in so many different countries. That’s always been my goal going over to China, is to be able to have the game that we all cover, this beautiful game of basketball that we all love and talk about every single day, to be able to bring people together in the most positive way. And that’s why we were there this past trip.
“Myself, the Lakers and along with Brooklyn, we were there to continue to promote the game of basketball because the game of basketball is all over the world. Not only in China but in India, Africa, America, and so on and so on. And that’s what I will continue to do because the sport has done so much to me.”
Should James eventually make another trek to China, it presumably would come during the offseason and not when jet lag could possibly have a lingering impact into the regular season.
“I feel great,” James said with a laugh when asked how he was coping with the trip physically. He did not play Monday but is expected to be back in the lineup Wednesday when the Lakers again face the Golden State Warriors.