While the NBA has perhaps never been as interesting on the court as it is now with a diverse set of teams vying for the championship, it’s the stars not playing that has taken much of the attention from the media and the fans.
Load management of stars, particularly Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, has been a contentious topic of discussion in the early going of the season. And while most have argued about the need for these rest schedules and their effects on fans at home and in the arenas, LeBron James is more interested in why it has become such a topic du jour.
Speaking to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes, James placed a hefty portion of the blame on the youth basketball culture, especially the AAU circuit, for breaking down athlete’s bodies years before they potentially make it to the highest level of competition.
James’ comments in full are definitely worth reading (and you can find them here) but here is a snippet from the Los Angeles Lakers forward’s statements:
“These kids are going into the league already banged up, and I think parents and coaches need to know [that] … well, AAU coaches don’t give a f- – -,” James told Yahoo Sports. “AAU coaches couldn’t give a damn about a kid and what his body is going through.”
“I think [AAU] has something to do with it, for sure,” James told Yahoo Sports. “It was a few tournaments where my kids — Bronny and Bryce — had five games in one day and that’s just f- – -ing out of control. That’s just too much. And there was a case study where I read a report. I don’t know who wrote it not too long ago, and it was talking about the causes and [kid’s] bodies already being broken down and they contributed it to AAU basketball and how many games that these tournaments are having for the [financial benefit]. So, I’m very conscious for my own son because that’s all I can control, and if my son says he’s sore or he’s tired, he’s not playing.”
LeBron knows the issues with the youth basketball circuit better than most. As one of the most high profile high school athletes ever and the father of two promising young basketball players, James has had plenty of experience in that regard.
Of course, James isn’t the first high profile basketball player to criticize the AAU. Former Lakers star Kobe Bryant had long been an outspoken critic of the system and how it develops young ball players.
LeBron, meanwhile, rarely speaks out without an agenda and it’s clear that after helping lead the charge for the state of California to issue a bill allowing college athletes to profit off their name and image, his next project is to go after the AAU and its often corrupt and detrimental practices.
In the interview, James also maintained that he will be trying to play every game unless he is injured or would hurt the team by playing. The Lakers have not rested any players for load management yet (although they have seemingly been cautious with injury recoveries for Kyle Kuzma and Rajon Rondo) but they will play their first back-to-back set of games this week. It’s not clear yet if either James or Anthony Davis will sit out of any of those games for rest.