Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James believes the demands on youth basketball players have become far too high.
James told NBA insider Marc Stein "it’s too much" and that the constant stream of tournaments doesn't allow the players to have enough time to physically recover:
"They go from playing all summer right into school league, all summer again right into school league, all summer right into school league for four years, and then they go off to college or go play wherever they go to play. If they are fortunate enough to get to the NBA, it’s a lot of basketball, lot of miles, they put on their bodies."
The 18-time All-Star can see the situation from two different perspectives.
He was a prodigious high school star at St. Vincent–St. Mary in Akron, Ohio, who garnered nationwide attention. That meant traversing the country to take the court for highly anticipated games.
Now, James has two sons, Bronny and Bryce, who are experiencing the youth basketball machine for themselves. He told Stein there are "way more" summer tournaments compared to when he was their age.
Stein reported James isn't alone, with some in NBA front offices growing concerned with the youth basketball structure. Players coming into the league might have been overtaxed and are more susceptible to injuries early in their pro careers.
ESPN's Baxter Holmes wrote a similar story in July 2019, speaking with one general manager who described the situation as "grave."
"It's very sad, where a kid has an NBA body, he's got NBA talent, he's got even an NBA mentality, but he doesn't have a body that can withstand the rigors of the training and the actual games, whether it's to get to the NBA or just to hold up," the GM said. "It's a tough deal."
Dr. Neeru Jayanthi, who works for Emory Healthcare and researches youth sports, also told Holmes how "kids are broken by the time they get to college" based on his experience.
That James is voicing his misgivings three years after Holmes' report perhaps shows how little has changed.