LeBron James has made it clear from the beginning that he's not a huge fan of the NBA's bubble down in Orlando. Upon leaving home to begin the journey, he tweeted that it "felt like I'm headed to do a bid man." Since then, he's made various comments about his struggles with missing his family, and how he even considered leaving.
On Tuesday, he made his strongest declaration yet. During an interview with reporters ahead of Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday night, LeBron said getting through the bubble has been the "most challenging" thing he's done in his career. Via ESPN:
"It's probably been the most challenging thing I've ever done as far as a professional, as far as committing to something and actually making it through. But I knew when I was coming what we were coming here for. I would be lying if I sat up here and knew that everything inside the bubble, the toll that it would take on your mind and your body and everything else, because it's been extremely tough. But I'm here for one reason and one reason only, and that's to compete for a championship."
Considering everything that LeBron's been through in his career, that's really saying something. After all, this is a guy who led the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 3-1 comeback in the 2016 Finals against one of the greatest teams of all time. But you could spend hours discussing LeBron's toughest accomplishments.
What this comment really highlights is just how much of a grind this experience has been for these players and coaches. The Lakers and Heat have been there for nearly three months now, spending much of that time without their families. Sure they have nice amenities, but such an extended period of isolation and repetition is going to be taxing for anyone, including professional athletes.
And all of that is to say nothing of the normal burdens -- both mental and physical -- that come with getting through the playoffs and trying to win a title. All together, that helps explain why multiple players believe this will be the most difficult championships ever won.
Anthony Davis said during his press conference on Tuesday, "I think this one is going to be a tough one. People said it's going to be the toughest championship in NBA history from a mental standpoint just because of the circumstances." Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo made a similar comment a few months ago prior to the season restarting.
Seeing the kind of strain the players have been under inside the bubble is likely yet another reason why the league is delaying the start of next season until some time in 2021, with the hopes of playing games in home arenas. Obviously there are massive financial incentives there as well, but the potential benefit to the players' well-being -- of course, as long as they can stay COVID-19-free -- can't be understated.