The concept of "load management" has become one of the hottest topics during this young NBA season. While some players have made it a point to prove they won't be taking nights off, LeBron James believes the idea should expand past the NBA so younger players are able to preserve their bodies as well.
James has been a household name since his high school days of dominating the AAU basketball. During a conversation with Yahoo Sports, James claims that he isn't sure how his years of AAU affected his body but he has witnessed a shift in the system that could lead to players being injured when they enter the NBA.
"I think [AAU] has something to do with it, for sure," James said before stating that he implements his own version of load management for his children. "It was a few tournaments where my kids—Bronny and Bryce—had five games in one day and that’s just fucking out of control. That’s just too much."
King James went on: "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 [kids'] bodies already being broken down and they [attributed] 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 also aware that not every player has a parent who is in tune with the nuances of health and athletics. He believes that certain social media trainers prey on this. James recalled hearing about an unnamed trainer who promised parents that their children would have an advantage by doing drills that aren't beneficial or safe. Like these untrustworthy trainers, James thinks AAU coaches toy with this lack of knowledge to get their best players—and their parents—to ignore real symptoms of fatigue.
"These kids are going into the league already banged up, and I think parents and coaches need to know [that] … well, AAU coaches don’t give a fuck. AAU coaches couldn’t give a damn about a kid and what his body is going through," James said. "You know that old saying. It’s like, 'Boy, you ain’t tired. What you tired for? You're only 12 years old. You don’t even know what it means to be tired.' Nah, that’s bullshit. Those kids are tired. And they don’t eat great too. The nutrition part. They don’t eat well at 14, 15, 16. They’re taking all that pounding and then they’re not putting the right shit in their body. It’s tough."
LeBron believes if load management becomes a focus during the early stages of an athlete's development, there wouldn't be a need for players to limit themselves once they get into the NBA. Additionally, the Raptors and Kawhi Leonard have proved that load management could be very rewarding when done properly. Toronto was able to rest Kawhi during the regular season in exchange for a historic postseason run that ended with an NBA title.
As for James, it takes a lot of convincing to keep him off the court. Prior to last season's groin injury, LeBron had played in 94 percent of his team's games in his career. James credits the extreme attention he pays to his body and sheer love for basketball with keeping him on the court.
"Me, personally, if I’m hurt and if I’m not able to play and I feel like I’ll hurt my team, then I won’t play," James said. "That’s the [arrangement] me and my coaching staff have always had. You can talk to any of my coaches throughout the course of my career. They get mad at me because I don’t like sitting down... I just love to hoop, but I’ve also been fortunate enough to take care of my body, except for last year and a couple of years where I maybe had a couple of bumps and bruises or the last game before the season and we’re getting ready for the postseason and you’ll take that game off, but you're doing that because you don’t want to risk anything going into the postseason. I just love to hoop, personally."