LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — LeBron James arrived for Monday’s 116-108 Los Angeles Lakers victory over Utah Jazz — a game that clinched the Western Conference’s first No. 1 seed of the franchise in a decade — in a black T-shirt intended to convey a message that was larger than basketball. There was a stopwatch on the front, in white screen print, showing the time 8:46 on her face, with “Minneapolis” printed below it. There were several stopwatches on the back — all frozen at 8:46 — with various names of cities below them, including New York, Houston, Tokyo and Paris. There was a message underneath the stopwatches: “The World Watches This Time.”
James dressed the T-shirt hours after the footage of the body camera emerged from the arrest of George Floyd on May 25, before he was killed while in Minneapolis police custody.
Floyd, a Black man aged 46, died after being kneeled on his back by white officer Derek Chauvin as Floyd repeatedly demonstrated his inability to breathe. The amount of time Chauvin kneeled on Floyd ‘s neck was originally stated to be 8 minutes, 46 seconds, but prosecutors have since said the time was 7:46.
James said he hadn’t seen the nearly 10-minute body camera video that the Daily Mail published Monday — in which Floyd had a gun pointed at him just six seconds after officers approached and knocked on his vehicle’s window while the ignition was off and his hands were up — but he intended to.
James ‘shirt was designed by Sloan and Bennett, and commissioned by James’ representative agency, Klutch Sports. Sloan and Bennett is a Black-owned company founded by James Patrick Christopher, a former professional overseas basketball player from Compton, California and in the G League.
“You think of 8 minutes and 46 seconds, an officer putting his hand on someone’s throat for that long. It doesn’t matter, video or no video,” James said. “No one deserved to lose their lives when it could have been prevented from what I saw and from what the world saw. So that’s what the T-shirt is all about: the world is watching. Everyone knows the time.
The Lakers’ star, with 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting, 9 assists and 8 rebounds coming off his best game in Orlando , Florida, said he was reminded of Floyd when the Lakers kneeled for both the U.S. national anthem and the Canadian national anthem before playing the Toronto Raptors over the weekend.
“I think it was a little bit over four minutes,” James said, echoing a sentiment recently shared by the Raptors’ Kyle Lowry and LA Clippers coach Doc Rivers. “And we had to turn our knees from one knee to the other knee as a unit, as a team, because they started getting sore. They started hurting a little bit. And that’s just over four minutes.”
Having spent nearly four weeks at the NBA‘s Walt Disney World Resort campus with the Lakers on one of 22 teams invited to revive the league to finish a season that was disrupted for nearly four-and-a-half months due to coronavirus, James said it’s obvious that moving to Orlando has helped him and his peers seek social change.
“Before we got here, there were so many talks that this right here, the bubble, playing basketball will take us off the main thing,” James said. “I think it was the absolute opposite of that. It gave us the opportunity to talk about every single day, to feel passionate about what’s going on in your personal life, whatever’s going on in society, to try and make a difference. To be insightful. To be understood. And to use this forum, which is the NBA, the most popular game in the world.
“We had that support from the league. We had that support from Union. And every player, whether he spoke out or not, felt like they were encouraged, and if they feel like they want to say something or they feel like they want to reach a subject, they don’t have to feel pressure, they don’t have to feel like they’re not going to be noticed, like they’re not going to be supported.
James devoted more than half of his postgame media session to social justice — four out of six questions he addressed. He replied with just as much earnestness when game came up.
This was a big night for James, who is calling himself a student of basketball history. Following a five-year playoff drought, The Lakers were the first team to secure a No. 1 spot. A.L. Tackle his first playoff game later this month since 2013, when James embarks on the fifth season of his career when playing for No. 1 seed. His team have won it all the last two times.
Yet just as James’ free agent decision to join the Lakers in 2018 changed the fortunes of L.A., a year later it was the trade for Anthony Davis that brought the franchise back into the championship discussion.
Davis, coming off a season-low seven shot attempts in a weekend loss to Toronto, led the Lakers on 13-for-28 shooting against Toronto with 42 points on.
“You know from a single game when you’re a great player,” James said of Davis. “You adapt. And then the next game turns it into something different, and he’s done that tonight totally.”
Davis’ success included a 24-point second half, marking the 20th time he’s scored 20 or more in half this season and making him the only Laker besides Kobe Bryant with 20 20-plus-point halves in the past 10 years in a season.
“It means a lot to be with him in a group. I just got chills,” Davis told Rachel Nichols of ESPN when she was informed of the feat during a postgame interview on-court. “It’s still hard to think about him, but to be in a group with him means a lot. And I know he ‘s looking down at us and cheering us on, and we want to do it for him. It’s an privilege to even be listed with his name, like I said.”
Bryant led the Lakers the last time they were seed No. 1 in the West, taking them from that spot to the championship in 2010.
“For Laker Nation this has been a long time coming,” Davis said. “We ‘re striving to be the best team that we can be. … It’s a nice feeling. Clearly, we ‘re not done, we still have a long way to go but it’s a good accomplishment for our company.”