LeBron James, Lakers feel effects of injury culture

LeBron James
(Ashley Landis/AP)

The Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James are probably sick of the word “injury” right now. The last week of playoff basketball only adds to the dreaded word. Everyone is wondering if there’s a few time machines stashed around the world. In my humble opinion, it’s because of the way we view injury culture. We expect athletes to play through pain, fatigue, etc. At this request, we get lackluster results and speculation like the Lakers have seen and heard.

James, Anthony Davis, and Dennis Schröder all practiced their best pain tolerance at the worst time. But by the same token, it was the most important time for the Lakers.

The King was clearly a man without all of his tools. After the Lakers bowed out of the playoffs, Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes discussed where his health stood:

The four-time champ was 85% healthy for the series, but that percentage fluctuated game-to-game, sources said.

Anthony Davis definitely was less than 85 percent. He was literally on one leg. Against his body’s best wishes, he attempted to push through. He talked a bit about his reasoning for giving it a go in Game 6 per Haynes:

“I couldn’t move to my right,” Davis told Yahoo Sports after the Phoenix Suns eliminated them in six games. “That’s why I reacted that way [in the first quarter] when [Devin] Booker drove left and I had to slide to my right. That s*** hurt. There was nothing I could do, but I just wanted to be out there for my team so bad.”

Schröder’s situation was more unique than his teammates. May 3rd marked the beginning of him going into the league’s health and safety protocol.  The time lasted seven games. He confusingly spoke to reporters, including The Athletics’ Bill Oram, about his status:

Schröder’s absence was still a lot of valuable time that could have been used to close some of the team’s gaps. It would have been a great chance for transparency for him to discuss his conditioning. That much time can affect rhythm and confidence. Instead, we are left to deal with questions about Schröder’s future as a Laker and his playoff struggle.

I am curious if players allow the pressure of their competitiveness and fans to get to them. Davis had many pundits and celebrities questioning his toughness. It’s hard to take those questions seriously considering that Davis has always been one to push through. Appropriately, he’s had to pick his spots when he couldn’t. James has put in so many years in the league that it shouldn’t be a question about his tolerance. When he’s been hurt, he’s been hurt with no way to mask it. This is all despite his attempts to dance around the severity of his injuries.

At this point, it’s too late to change this culture. This is a part of the game that we have cemented into entertainment. With the ill effects spreading across the league though, it does give us a chance to re-evaluate things.

Can we treat players a tad more respectably following an absence? I am sure we would ask for the same courtesy in our personal lives. Maybe that’s where I am viewing things wrong. This isn’t personal life. But that can be countered with the fact that health is life. Without it, players are out of a job and opportunities. I just hope we don’t have to have this conversation and circumstance again next season.

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