After Wednesday’s three NBA playoff games were postponed following the Milwaukee Bucks’ decision not to take the court for their first-round, Game 5 matchup against the Orlando Magic, the players reached an independent decision on Thursday morning to resume the postseason. The postseason will likely pick back up Friday or Saturday, NBA Executive Vice President Mike Bass said in a statement.
Below is everything you need to know about how we got to this point and the circumstances that led to the players’ decision to resume playing.
1. What sparked Wednesday’s boycott?
The NBA and its players, coaches and owners have taken myriad measures to make clear their support for the Black Lives Matter movement while standing against all racial injustice and police brutality, but in the wake of a Black man named Jacob Blake being shot seven times in the back by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Sunday, Bucks players collectively decided to take the league’s most extreme action yet by not taking the court for their game against the Magic.
Shortly thereafter, the NBA released a statement that all three of Wednesday’s postseason games — Milwaukee vs. Orlando, Houston vs. Oklahoma City and Portland vs. the L.A. Lakers — were being postponed. And so began a series of protests across professional sports, with the WNBA canceling its full slate of games for Wednesday (and also Thursday), and three MLB games getting postponed as well.
2. Were other teams aware of the Bucks’ plan?
No. And that reportedly didn’t sit well with a portion of the players, which led to a least two different responses. One, per Sam Amick of The Athletic, Bucks veteran Kyle Korver apologized for his team’s decision to take “abrupt” action without informing anyone else of their plan.
On the other hand, Celtics forward Jaylen Brown stood by the Bucks and their decision didn’t feel they owed anyone an apology, per ESPN.
3. How was decision to resume playing reached?
The players inside the bubble met Wednesday night, first with coaches invited to attend and then on their own, to discuss next steps. During these initial meetings, it was reported by Shams Charania of the Athletic that the Lakers and Clippers were in favor of canceling the rest of the postseason, while the other 11 teams remaining in the bubble voted to resume playing.
Multiple reports indicated that LeBron James was particularly firm in his desire to shut down the rest of the postseason, citing that he didn’t believe team owners were doing enough, and Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times reported that Kawhi Leonard was on LeBron’s side in being “adamant” about canceling the rest of the playoffs.
Players reportedly continued talking late into Wednesday night, and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported that the main source of frustration was players not being on the same page with emotions running high as time went on. They agreed to sleep on it with the hope that they’d be able to reconvene on Thursday morning with clearer heads.
Indeed, that meeting Thursday morning led to the decision to resume playing.
4. What has been the response from team owners?
As noted above in LeBron’s dissatisfaction with the owners, this is a very important issue. On Wednesday, several owners and teams released statements in support of the players’ decision not to play, but the players want(ed) action from — let’s face it — the really rich people in control of their teams who have the financial means and leverage to affect meaningful change.
To that end, the Board of Governors met independent of the players on Thursday, and ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan reported that NBA legend and Charlotte Hornets Michael Jordan — the only Black majority owner in the league — acted as an important liaison between players and owners. From MacMullan:
Jordan, owner of the Charlotte Hornets — and the only Black majority owner in the league — reached out to National Basketball Players Association president Chris Paul, league sources told ESPN, in advance of the owners meeting to get a better understanding of what the players hoped to achieve going forward and to offer assistance as they make their case to the NBA board of governors. Jordan also spoke with Houston Rockets star Russell Westbrook about issues of social justice that initially left some stars advocating for the cancellation of the season.
… The owners held a virtual meeting Thursday morning, and two participants confirmed that Jordan — who serves as the NBA Labor Relations Committee chairman — was a voice of reason, urging the other owners to allow the players to express their frustrations and concerns before offering any of their own solutions.
… League sources said the owners were unanimous in their support of the players and spent much of their meeting discussing ways in which they could amplify the players’ voices.
Many owners, including Jordan, sources said, favored continuing the season, believing that the games were still the best and most visible platform for social change.
5. What effects have the boycotts had so far?
Actually, one potentially meaningful ball has already started rolling. Before leaving their locker room on Wednesday, Bucks players reportedly spent significant time on the phone with Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, which then led to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers calling a special session of the State Legislature and urging lawmakers to vote on a legislative package that includes police reform.
We will continue to update this story as information becomes available.