Load management has become a recent trend in the NBA, as teams rest star players in an effort to stay healthy for the postseason, and everyone has an opinion on it.
Michael Jordan says players are paid to play in 82 games, Kobe Bryant says fans pay to see the best and Jalen Rose blames the fans and media for creating the problem.
But LeBron James points elsewhere for the blame.
The Los Angeles Lakers star said he believes the issue starts at the AAU level as young athletes are being overworked.
“These kids are going into the league already banged up, and I think parents and coaches need to know … well, AAU coaches don’t give a f---,” James told Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes. “AAU coaches couldn’t give a damn about a kid and what his body is going through.”
James played AAU ball as a youngster and has two sons who are currently playing at the AAU level. He cited instances in which he thought his sons were taking on too much physically.
“It was a few tournaments were my kids — Bronny and Bryce — had five games in one day and that’s just f---ing out of control,” he said. “That’s just too much. And there was a case study where I read a report. I don’t know who wrote it not too long ago, and it was talking about the causes and [kid’s] bodies already being broken down and they contributed it to AAU basketball and how many games that these tournaments are having for the [financial benefit]. So, I’m very conscious for my own son because that’s all I can control, and if my son says he’s sore or he’s tired, he’s not playing.”
James is not the only one to feel this way, either. Former Suns head coach and NBA veteran Earl Watson recently voiced his concern over AAU basketball on Twitter, criticizing them for playing 12-15 games a weekend to justify the fees.
Nikola Vucevic, who grew up in California and Montenegro, told Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype that AAU is “bad for basketball.”
“It ends up being a one- or two-man show where kids just play one-on-five and don’t learn how to play the game [the] right way,” he said.
James, who has not taken a definitive stance on load management aside form saying if he’s healthy, he’s playing, said he is not sure if AAU has had a negative impact on him.
“It didn’t affect me. But now that I look back on it, I don’t know,” James said. “But there are way more tournaments, there are way more showcases now compared to when I played. We didn’t have the EYBL [Nike Elite Youth Basketball League] circuits. We had certain national tournaments. But we didn’t have the circuits and multiple tournaments that go on now. The EYBL is great. They only play like one or two games a day. But there’s some other tournaments in these cities where they’re playing four or five games a day and that’s just not good. I don’t care what nobody says.”