LeBron James tested positive for COVID-19 and was placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols on Tuesday morning, missing the Los Angeles Lakers’ 117–92 win against the Sacramento Kings that night.
According to NBA rules, any player whose COVID-19 test result returns positive or inconclusive has to spend 10 days in isolation with no physical activity. After that period, the player must undergo a cardiac screening and reconditioning before returning to the court. The rules also state that a vaccinated player can return if he tests negative for the virus in two consecutive tests 24 hours apart, or if it’s been 10 days without symptoms.
James confirmed in late September that he had received a COVID-19 vaccine despite his initial skepticism.
“I know that I was very skeptical about it all,” he said during the Lakers’ media day, when asked about his vaccination status. “But after doing my research and things of that nature, I felt like it was best suited, not only for me but for my family and my friends. And that’s why I decided to do it.”
Lakers coach Frank Vogel described James’ absence as “a huge loss,” saying in his pre-game remarks that that team “just wants the best for him right now.” He didn’t provide further details on whether James has any COVID-19 symptoms.
Anthony Davis, who played a leading role and scored a team-high 25 points, told the media after the game that he had spoken with James and believed he was “asymptomatic.”
“He said he was good. I think he’s asymptomatic, which is a good sign,” said Davis, reported ESPN. “But we want to make sure that he gets back. Health is most important.”
Prior to Tuesday, the Lakers had already played 11 games without James due to his ankle and abdominal injuries, as well as a one-game suspension after his fight with Detroit Pistons center Isaiah Stewart. Due to his isolation period, he will miss the Dec. 3 game against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Dec. 7 game against the Boston Celtics, and the Dec. 9 game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
“It’s an 82-game season,” Vogel said at the postgame press conference, reported Yahoo Sports. “You’re going to have to deal with guys going in and out of the lineup. We’ve been without him some already this season. I feel like we’re further along with our cohesiveness now than we were the first time he went out with his ab strain. And we got to come in and compete and get a W tonight.”