LeBron James violated the NBA’s health and safety protocols last week when he attended a promotional event for a tequila brand in which he has invested. The incident initially called into question his availability for Game 1 of the Los Angeles Lakers’ first-round playoff series against the Phoenix Suns, but Charles Barkley was never concerned about that.
Barkley was asked during an interview with LaJethro Jenkins last week if he believed there was a chance LeBron would be forced to sit out Sunday’s game. Barkley laughed and said there is no way that would happen.
“The NBA ain’t got the f—ing balls to suspend LeBron James. Zero (chance),” Barkley said. “Sometimes you read stuff and you just start laughing … if it was a nobody, they would put him in health and safety protocol. Ain’t no f—ing way LeBron James is gonna be sitting out because of health and safety protocols. LeBron James is playing Sunday, guaranteed.”
Barkley, of course, was right. LeBron played and scored 18 points in his team’s 99-90 loss to the Suns.
An NBA spokesperson confirmed to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin on Friday night that LeBron had violated the league’s health and safety protocols. The spokesperson said the issue was addressed with the Lakers and that it was in line with “comparable instances around the league.”
Attendees of the tequila event were supposed to either produce proof that they have received the COVID-19 vaccine or had a recent negative COVID-19 test. James has declined to say whether he has gotten the vaccine or intends to get it.
We can’t say whether LeBron received special treatment, but we know other players have been more heavily scrutinized for violating COVID-19 protocols than he was.