LeBron James was apparently a little distracted as he prepared for the LA Lakers’ clash with Houston in Game 5 of the NBA’s conference semi-finals on Saturday.
Just hours before LeBron took the court, he was a keen observer as Naomi Osaka battled with Victoria Azarenka in the US Open final.
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After a woeful start to lose the first set 6-1, Osaka staged an incredible comeback to capture her second US Open and third grand slam title.
Among the millions in awe of Osaka’s comeback was none other than LeBron.
And the NBA champion summed it up with a simple five-word tweet.
“Great comeback! Congrats Naomi Osaka,” he wrote.
Naomi Osaka joins LeBron as athlete activists
Osaka capped a transformative US Open with a challenge to the millions watching across the globe to “start talking” about racial justice - a goal she shares with LeBron.
Striding into Arthur Ashe Stadium for her first-round match 12 days ago, Osaka put her activism front-and-centre from the start, wearing a mask to honour Breonna Taylor - a Black woman killed by police officers who burst into her apartment in March.
Osaka would go on to recognise seven different Black Americans - one for each of the seven rounds of the tournament - bringing the Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality to her sport's broad international fan base.
Asked after her final what message she hoped to send with her masks, she turned the question on her interviewer: “What was the message that you got?”
“The point is to make people start talking,” she added.
Osaka, who was born in Japan to a Haitian father and Japanese mother, spent her formative years in the United States and lives in Los Angeles.
She represents her birth country in competition but her influence defies international borders.
“Everything that I was doing off the court was sort of on the court at the same time too,” she said in a televised interview.
“It made me stronger because I felt like I have more desire to win because I want to show more names.”
One of the most recognised personalities in Japan, Osaka sent shockwaves through her sport before the tournament even began.
She forced the postponement of the Western & Southern Open semi-final late last month after opting out of the match in protest over the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, as athletes in the NBA and WNBA mounted similar boycotts.
“Watching the continued genocide of Black people at the hand of the police is honestly making me sick to my stomach,” she wrote on social media at the time.
Tennis pioneer Billie Jean King said the action put her in the pantheon of the greatest athlete activists, right alongside LeBron.
Speaking to the media after leading the Lakers into the western conference finals, LeBron wore a shirt sporting the phrase “Black Lives Matter”.
He has been at the forefront of widespread calls for change across America for months.
LeBron leads Lakers into conference finals
The Los Angeles Lakers are going to the conference finals for the first time in a decade, ending the longest drought in franchise history.
LeBron is going there for the first time since 2018. For him, that also qualifies as a drought.
James scored 29 points and the Lakers wrapped up their first trip to the Western Conference finals since 2010 by beating the Houston Rockets 119-96.
Kyle Kuzma scored 17 points, Markieff Morris had 16, Danny Green added 14 and Anthony Davis finished with 13 for the top-seeded Lakers.
They will play either the second-seeded Los Angeles Clippers or third-seeded Denver Nuggets for the West title in a series that won't begin before Wednesday.
LeBron is going to the conference finals for the 11th time overall - six with Cleveland, four with Miami and now with the Lakers.
It’s his ninth time getting to this round in the last 10 seasons; the one miss in that stretch was last season, when his inaugural year with the Lakers fell apart because of injury and the team missed the playoffs.