With the Los Angeles Lakers’ season prematurely over and the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic slowly dwindling to its end across the United States, players like Wesley Matthews have finally had a chance to reflect after what’s undoubtedly been a difficult two seasons.
From the moment the 2019-20 NBA season was suspended in March of 2020, athletes have taken center stage in their focus on changing the world for the better. Whether it was advocating for safety measures amid the pandemic or fighting on the front lines for social justice, the work never stopped for NBA players. Matthews, in particular, became one of the main voices leading these charges.
The Lakers guard spoke about the difficulties of the last 18 months and how its changed his perspective on basketball and the community around him. “We can’t take away those that had it way, way, way harder than we did. We can’t dismiss that or belittle that,” Matthews said. “As basketball players and athletes, you’re just apt to a rhythm, you’re apt to a routine. You get up, you work out, you eat your shake, you take your nap, you hang out with your kids, you work out again. We’re creatures of habit.
“And when the pandemic hit, when the social justice stuff was just spewing over, over, and over and over, you became human. Which, obviously, we always are, but you have to look at things in a little bit more perspective. Where it’s like, so much of us, basketball is our certain focus, center priority. And, when that was taken away, guys had to find themselves. What was important to you? Community. Those of us that are raising children. The world. You look at the world differently. Not only for yourself. Protection, safety, education. How can we make sure that this is the best possible, freest, safest, equal societies that we all come from?
“You kind of got thrown into that role of a leader when you weren’t expecting to. And so, at the same time, prepare for something that you have no idea if and when it’s going to start again. It was definitely stressful, it definitely weighed on a lot of people. It weighed on me, but I had a great team, a great support system, great family, and I was able to navigate through it. I was blessed.”
Matthews has always been one of the NBA’s best in terms of on-court leadership. However, he seamlessly transferred that skill when he needed to focus his attention on the greater good.
There’s no doubt that without Matthews, the league likely wouldn’t have put forward the initiatives they did over the past 18 months. And now, for the first time since before the bubble began, Matthews can sit back and enjoy a full offseason.
Matthews hoping to run it back in L.A.
With Matthews joining a list of potentially 10 Lakers free agents, he made it very clear what his goals are for the 2021-22 season. “There’s no question that in my mind and in my heart that I want to run it back and as far as my role and the ups and downs of the season I don’t take any of it personally,” Matthews said. “I like to be a straight shooter, call a spade a spade and so in order to do that you have to have personal accountability and not have no problem. I have no problem owning up to that which was some of the inconsistent play that I had. But at the same time, you have to recognize the situations that you’re in, recognize the situation that’s around you.
“I definitely take ownership on my play, but at the same time I’m honest with not only myself but with what everybody else had to deal with. Obviously feel and know I could’ve played better but at the same time I do know that I brought everything that I had, I left it out on the court every single night, and showed flashes of who I can be, what I can be, who I am in certain situations and like I said to start this out, there’s no doubt I want to run it back.”
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