NBA players have the option to opt-in to play in different official basketball seasons. But some athletes decide to opt-out. So the main question here is, why do NBA players opt-out?
Health, family, legal concerns, and personal interests are some of the reasons why NBA players are opting out of official seasons. The global COVID-19 pandemic can also strike fear into the hearts and minds of players, leaving many of them with no choice but to take a break from playing the game.
In this article, you’ll learn about the top reasons why NBA players decide to opt-out, along with other pieces of relevant information.
Different NBA players have varying reasons for opting out of seasons or not playing for extended periods. Some of these reasons include personal well-being and being with families. Some of these official basketball athletes also had no choice but to opt-out because of legal troubles.
Here’s a deeper dive into those reasons:
1. Physical Health
Being a professional basketball player requires athletes to be in top physical form. However, injuries can happen on and off-court, which may lead to players taking leaves during seasons.
One example is Joel Przybilla, a center for four NBA teams during his career. He played for Portland Trail Blazers, Milwaukee Bucks, Atlanta Hawks, and Charlotte Hornets from 2000 to 2013.
During his time, Przybilla was quite proficient in his position. In the 2008 to 2009 season, he was able to acquire 82 points for guarding. This season was the highest point of his career as a center.
However, in December 2009, this ex-NBA player ruptures his right patella tendon. Furthermore, x-rays indicate that he also dislocated his patella. The incident took place when he was trying to contest a rebound with Erick Dampier, who was a center for the Dallas Mavericks at that time.
Upon landing, Przybilla clutched his knee, forcing the body part to accumulate more force and pressure than normal. The NBA player fell to the ground almost immediately while clutching his knee with his two hands. He had no choice but to opt-out while in the middle of the season to care for his injury.
2. Psychological Health
Most people think about athletes running around the court, trying to shoot a ball when thinking about basketball. However, this sport doesn’t only require NBA players to be in top physical form but they should also have stable mental well-being.
Basketball players need to think on their feet, which can require split-second decisions to increase the chances of making clean shots. But if an athlete has mental instabilities, the surge of thoughts might hinder that individual from taking a clear shot.
Keep in mind that mental health is just as important as physical health. Some people even think more highly of the former than the latter. If a person doesn’t have good psychological health, the symptoms can emanate to appear in physical form, causing physiological concerns.
For example, Paul George, a 6’8” small forward for the Los Angeles Clippers, reported that he wasn’t feeling like himself in August 2020. According to an ESPN report, George wasn’t doing well in Game 5 even though he was playing quite spectacularly during Games 2 to 4. The LA Clippers player said the following in a statement:
“I underestimated mental health, honestly,” George said. “I had anxiety, a little bit of depression, from being locked in here. I just wasn’t here, I was checked out. Games 2, 3, 4, I wasn’t there.”
His depression got to the point where he had to see the team’s psychiatrist. Thankfully, George had the support of every team member, allowing him to bounce back as he found his reasons to move forward.
3. Legal Issues
Opting out of one or two NBA seasons because of physical or mental health concerns is quite reasonable. But some NBA players need to opt-out because they had to fix legal troubles. Some of these official basketball athletes were even absent from a few seasons because they had to finish their jail time.
One fine example of a player taking a leave from the NBA because of legal trouble is Ron Metta World Artest. Now known as Metta World Peace, this popular NBA athlete played as a small forward during his time in the professional basketball league.
Aside from his skills in the game, Peace was also known for another famous, or rather an infamous trait – anger. This player had a short fuse and would get angry at seemingly small things. In 2004, he was tried and convicted for a brawl during a Pacers vs. Pistons game. Peace had to undergo community service while serving a year on probation.
It didn’t end there as the player had another legal incident three years later. In 2007, Peace was with the Sacramento Kings, but he wasn’t able to play for a period because he pleaded no contest to charges pointing to spousal abuse. Again, Peace had to undergo 100 hours of community service. Plus, he had to take time to do a 10-day work program with the country sheriff.
Today, Peace has gone through anger management therapy and has now attained peace within himself (no pun intended).
4. Global Pandemic
Sometimes it’s not only about personal health but the well-being of an entire community is at risk. With the COVID-19 virus wreaking havoc throughout the globe, some NBA players weren’t safe from this illness.
ESPN states that 46 out of the 546 players tested from November 24 to 30 were positive with the coronavirus. Some of these players were even asymptomatic, which means they weren’t exhibiting any major symptoms of the disease.
Since this virus is contagious, all people in contact with those who tested positive within the past two weeks from the testing period had to go through a 14-day quarantine. Therefore, NBA participants, regardless of role, had to take a leave of absence from any activity during this time to protect the spread of the virus.
Why NBA Players Boycott?
Merriam-Webster defines the term boycott as the following:
To engage in a concerted refusal to have dealings with (a person, a store, an organization, etc.) usually to express disapproval or to force acceptance of certain conditions.
NBA players boycotting isn’t rare in the professional basketball league. Some players would even opt-out of seasons because of their disdain for certain events.
For instance, in August 2020, the Milwaukee Bucks were supposed to play against the Orlando Magic. Both teams had the chance to clinch their first round to move further into the season. Instead, Bucks players boycotted the game because of the Jacob Blake shooting incident.
To put things into perspective, Jacob Blake, a victim of police brutality and racism in Kenosha, Wisconsin, has been shot by men in uniform. Blake survived the incident, but many people of color took this as an insult. It would then spark further outrage after the killing of George Floyd in May of the same year, which would become the precursor to what would now be known as the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement.
Back to what was supposed to be the Bucks vs. Magic game, players from the Bucks team didn’t come out to the court because they feel outraged by the recent events happening in the country. If the Bucks did come out to play against the Orlando Magic players, they would not have been playing with their best, which would otherwise be an insult to the Magic team.
Why Are NBA Players on Strike?
A strike is quite similar to boycotting, albeit both terms are still different. To boycott means to express disapproval whereas strike means to refuse to continue working until an institution or entity meets certain demands.
In the case of NBA players, some professional basketball athletes in the league would opt out of playing in seasons. The reasons for going on strike differ for each team or player, such as unfair management or national events.
Recent events dictate the latter as about 100 New York-based NBA employees went on strike to push for social justice in August 2020. It was roughly the same time during the Jacob Blake incident.
In that period, NBA players, officials, and other people in associated leagues spent their time calling out to elected officials. These statements were cries for justice for the racial attacks against Blake and other people of color in the country.
People, not only NBA players, want fair treatment, regardless of their race. Some players would bargain with city and state officials to help every person in the country, again, regardless of race or color, to feel safe.
The NBA players and other employees in the league would soon return to work after the strike. But their hearts, minds, and souls may never be the same after these racial attacks.
Which NBA Players Opt-Out?
Although many NBA players opted out of different seasons throughout the years, some of these temporary or permanent exits are more popular than the rest.
Some examples include:
1. Avery Bradley
This shooting guard for the Houston Rockets had to take a break in the 2019 to 2020 season. The reason for him opting out is because he was concerned for his family, specifically his son.
Bradley’s son has a history of respiratory illnesses. If he were to continue playing for the season, this Rockets player would have his thoughts all over the place. In turn, overthinking might ensue, causing him to make unnecessary mistakes while on the court.
2. Trevor Ariza
Trevor Anthony Ariza is the small forward for the Miami Heat at the time of writing. But in the 2020 to 2021 season, he opted out to commit to a one-month visitation window with his child.
In that period, Ariza was with the Portland Trail Blazers. However, he decided not to continue playing in the season so that he can spend some much-needed quality time with his son. Thankfully, the Trail Blazers had a substitute player to fill in the small forward role that Ariza left behind that season.
3. Spencer Dinwiddie
It’s safe to say that no human on this planet is safe from the COVID-19 virus, especially for the Brooklyn Nets players. Spencer Gray Dinwiddie tested positive during the 2019 to 2020 season.
Dinwiddie’s temporary exit from the Nets costed the team for a true point guard, especially with Kyrie Irving already out for the year because of an injury. Tyler Johnson and Caris LeVert took on the mantle that Dinwiddie left behind.
Unfortunately, the Trail Blazers lost with their match against the Brooklyn Nets with the former only one point behind from achieving overtime. To put that statement into perspective, the Trail Blazers had 133 points while the Nets won with 134.
4. Wilson Chandler
Like many NBA players, such as Bradley and Ariza, Wilson Jamall Chandler also believes that family should always come first. Chandler had to take a leave in the 2020 season return because he wanted to spend more time with his family, specifically his grandmother and his three kids.
Chandler told ESPN in an interview that the ‘health and well-being of my family has to come first.’ He also expressed his appreciation and gratitude to the team and its officials for understanding and supporting his request.
Different NA players opt out of games because of varying reasons. Players like Avery Bradley, Trevor Ariza, and Wilson Chandler perform temporary exits from their teams to place more importance on family time. Other players, like Spencer Dinwiddie, had to take their health and the well-being of others into priority when they opted out.
Many NBA teams have substitute players to fill certain roles in case some of their professional athletes decide to make a temporary or permanent exit from the league.