Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said the entire team would be vaccinated by opening day.
Which was an especially significant revelation because the Lakers have three players whose prior comments left plenty of uncertainty, to say the least.
LeBron James – the NBA’s most-newsworthy player by far – had famously declined to say whether he’d get the vaccine. Dwight Howard said he doesn’t believe in vaccines. Kent Bazemore said he wouldn’t get the coronavirus vaccine.
All three addressed their vaccination status.
You’re always trying to figure out ways that you can always be available and protect one another and put yourself in the best possible chance where you are available to your teammates, available to what we need to do on the floor. And the ultimate goal is to obviously win a championship. And it starts with being, obviously, health is the number-one thing and also holding each other accountable on the floor. So, we’re excited to know that we’ve given ourselves another opportunity to be available to each other, and that’s what it came down to.
I can speak about myself. I think everyone has their own choice to do what they feel is right for themselves and their family and things of that nature. I know that I was very skepticism about it all. But after doing my research and things of that nature, I felt like it was best-suited for, not only me, but for my family and for my friends. And that’s why I decided to do it.
Anything that I talk about, I don’t talk about other people and what they should do. I speak for me and for my family. And that’s what it’s about.
We’re talking about individual’s bodies. We’re not talking about something that’s political or racism or police brutality or things of that nature. We’re talking about people’s bodies and wellbeings. So, I don’t feel like, for me personally, that I should get involved in what other people should do for their bodies and their livelihoods.
It would be me talking about somebody if they should take this job or not. Listen, you have to do what’s best for you and your family. If they should relocate, you have to do what’s best for your family. So, I know what I did for me and my family. I know some of my friends and what they did for their families. But as far as speaking for everybody and their individualities and things they want to do, I don’t feel like – that’s my job.
I’m just going to keep that out. We’re going to not talk about none of the vaccines. I’m sorry, I can’t do it. I have a lot of opinions on it, but not on camera. Keep that separate.
I want to keep that private. HIPAA law.
I’m a big health advocate. I do everything I can to take care of my body – nutrition, hydration, recovery, weight training, everything I take upon myself to stay healthy. And when the vaccine first came out, I felt like it was kind of forced on me, and I’m not a person that responds well to that. It just kind of put this shell around me. I kind of fought it off a little bit. My body didn’t really – I’m a big energy person, and I didn’t feel the right energy towards it. But I had a good call with Rob Pelinka and he laid it down to me in the most fairly honest way that I ever heard. And to pass up an opportunity like this, to be on a roster with so many greats, especially from my era, it would be hard opportunity to pass up. And then at the end of the day what helps me sleep about – I have my first dose, get my second dose here in a couple weeks. But what helps me sleep at night is that I made the decision for myself, and I just didn’t get it because I was told to. So, at the end of the day, I’ve made a ton of sacrifices playing this game of basketball, and that’s what this game is all about. So, once I’ve got it, it’s good that I can that I can kind of put it behind me and really focus on basketball.
[On Pelinka’s message] At the end of the day, man, you want to live your life, right? You don’t want to have this whatever it is looming over your shoulder and having you view the world differently. Whatever you can do. And it wasn’t really pertaining to the vaccine, per se. It was just kind of a life philosophy. Whatever you can do, life is going to be stressful, anyway. Regardless of what walk of life you come from, there’s going to be trials and tribulations. But whatever you can do get rid of some of the distractions and just live your live, continue to do the things you do. I’m going to continue to take care of my body. I’m going to continue put the right things in my body. I’m going to continue do all those things. But I got one big monkey off of my back, especially pertaining to my job and what it would it cost not being able to play in a gym inside of the whole state of California or New York. I can sleep well at night knowing that I don’t have to deal with that. So, for me, that’s just what it is. I want to live to see 130. So, if I don’t get this vaccine and I got that kind of stress on me, then there’s no way.
[Was getting vaccinated a condition of Lakers signing him?] No. And I will say the front office and the organization did an amazing job of, first off, hearing me out and why I didn’t want to do it in the first place. They were really diligent in the whole process of staying patient with me.
LeBron often talks about what other people should do. He has gotten involved in employment decisions. He reportedly told someone not to take a specific job. He has spoken out about the treatment of other people’s bodies.
But if he doesn’t want to talk about coronavirus vaccines, that’s OK. Nobody is obligated to discuss vaccination.
(As Bill Oram of The Athletic perfectly responded to Howard: “That’s not what HIPAA is, but OK.”)
I want to focus on Bazemore’s reversal, though.
He shows why it’s important to engage with, not dismiss, people who aren’t vaccinated.
Vaccines are generally safe. Vaccinated people are less likely to contract and spread coronavirus. If they have a rare breakthrough case, vaccinated people are less likely to experience severe outcomes.
Of course, some people will never get vaccinated. But to many people, the vaccines sound more appealing as they get more of a full and accurate picture.
Initially, Bazemore said, “I’m taking it upon myself to do everything I can to keep my immune system strong and live a healthy and long life.” Why should it be so shocking he ultimately took a vaccine that strengthens his immune system?
Kudos to Pelinka for bridging the gap.
Vaccines are our best ticket back to normalcy. There are shades of appreciating that in LeBron’s and Bazemore’s answers.
For the Lakers, normalcy means contending for a championship. Now, coronavirus is less likely to interfere with that pursuit.