LeBron James, Chris Paul and a small group of players spoke to Barack Obama on Wednesday to discuss the fate of the 2019-20 NBA season, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. With the season hanging in the balance, Obama reportedly advised them to play and to "utilize the opportunity to contextualize action they want in order to play," according to Charania. They also discussed forming a committee for player action with the hope that Obama would be involved in some capacity. The players ultimately decided to finish the season Thursday morning.
The call itself took place after Wednesday's heated player's meeting, in which James' Los Angeles Lakers and the Kawhi Leonard-led Los Angeles Clippers initially voted not to finish the season. James was reportedly frustrated by Milwaukee's unilateral decision not to play, and would have preferred that they had communicated the plan to the Players Association so that it could have come up with a union-wide approach. Bucks guard George Hill admitted during Wednesday's meeting that he sparked the conversation about sitting out during pre-game, according to Charania, and a number of Bucks did pre-game warmups expecting to play.
James wanted a direct plan for what sitting out would accomplish, and while the league and NBPA announced plans to form a social justice coalition and turn arenas into voting centers, James still made it clear to owners that he expects the league to continue to work towards racial justice and helping poor communities after the season ends.
Obama, a lifelong fan of the Chicago Bulls, cultivated strong relationships with a number of NBA stars during his presidency. James and Paul both played in pickup games at the White House, as have retired legends like Magic Johnson, Scottie Pippen and Alonzo Mourning. Paul served on the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition alongside another NBA superstar, Grant Hill.