LeBron James says toughest part of pandemic was not seeing his mom

Lakers' LeBron James dribbles during the first half against the Brooklyn Nets at Staples Center on March 10.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

It had been months since Lakers star LeBron James had seen a reporter in person. He walked off the practice court, where players are not required to wear masks, and into a section of an arena at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex that had been turned into a media conference room.

Reporters and NBA personnel gathered near him with masks, as little white devices worn with their credentials beeped occasionally when they got closer than six feet from another person wearing such a device.

“Everyone keeps asking how is the bubble or how is it going, and I just say ‘It’s 2020,’” James said. “Nothing is normal in 2020. Nothing seems as is, and who knows if it will ever go back to the way it was. But you make the adjustments and you figure it out along the way, that’s what life is all about.”

James spoke for nearly 10 minutes on Monday, covering a wide range of topics as he returned to a familiar routine but in an unfamiliar way and place.

Most of the interview was not about basketball, although some basketball was discussed. James said he had no disappointment in the league’s decision to have the MVP race based solely on the portion of the season that had been played before the COVID-19 pandemic halted the season March 11.

“I think that I’ve shown what I’m capable of doing,” said James, a four-time MVP. “Not only individually but from a team’s perspective, us being No. 1 in the West. There was a lot of conversation about LeBron can do those things in the East but if he ever came to the West what could he do? You know, haha, so I heard all of that. To be able to have our team at the top of the Western Conference and playing the way that we were playing at that time and the way I was playing, it’s definitely a good feeling.”


Dwight Howard spoke for the first time since joining the Lakers in Orlando and talked about social issues and the NBA restart. He says national crises should be the focus.

When the season was suspended, James was closing the gap in the MVP race between himself and Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, who won it last year. In the nine games the Lakers played after the All-Star break, James averaged 30 points, 9.4 assists and 8.2 rebounds.

When asked what part of basketball he missed the most during the pandemic, James pivoted to a more personal anecdote.

“The only thing that I missed during the COVID and quarantine period was my mother,” James said. “It was the first time I went that long in my life without seeing my mom. I hadn’t seen my mom since All-Star weekend then I saw her two weeks, three weeks before we had to report to our respective cities. That was extreme for me.”

His mother, Gloria James, was unwilling to travel during the pandemic. She helped her son weather her absence by telling him the time would come again for them to see each other. It happened in June.

James spoke about Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights leader who died on Friday.

“Not only what John Lewis meant to me but for Black America in general is just that never be afraid of conflict — good conflict, positive conflict — that can create change,” James said.

He was asked about Kobe Bryant’s death and whether that still impacts him now.

“A day doesn’t go by when I don’t think about him,” James said. “And a day doesn’t go by when our organization does not remember him and think about not only Kob’, but Gigi, Vanessa and the girls.”

When James finished his media session, JaVale McGee, who was toting a camera with which he’s recording this experience, and coach Frank Vogel were next in line for questions. Then players boarded the bus back to their hotel and the gym quickly cleared out. A cleaning crew rushed inside to sanitize the space before the Houston Rockets arrived.

Their new normal wasn’t normal at all, but a week-and-a-half into their bubble experience, the teams had settled into their new routines.