After the longest season in NBA history, Heat center Meyers Leonard chose to unwind in the most Meyers Leonard way possible.
He planned to make a cross-country trip in a Coors Light-themed RV.
The beer-loving big man is in the process of traveling from Miami to Los Angeles, where Leonard typically does his offseason training. Alongside his wife, Elle, and his dog, Koko, Leonard planned pit stops to see close family members but remain socially distanced amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
After a wild few months in the bubble, it’s time to unwind a bit by doing the COMPLETE opposite. We’re going coast-to-coast on the road. The fam and I (Elle, Koko and @CoorsLight) are making a 10-day trip from Miami to LA in the Coors Light Chillstream. pic.twitter.com/U1w7rn9cyM
— Meyers Leonard (@MeyersLeonard) October 29, 2020
Leonard’s Heat played in the final game of the 2019-20 season on Oct. 11, losing to the Lakers in Game 6 of the NBA Finals inside the league’s bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Now, with team owners and the National Basketball Players Association discussing a quick turnaround for the 2020-21 campaign — ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe reported Wednesday the expectation is a reduced 72-game season will start Dec. 22 — Leonard is taking advantage of a tight window.
“Being in the bubble was stressful,” Leonard told Sporting News before the start of his trip. “It was different. I was away from home. So the ability to, during these times, to travel safe and away from people and COVID with my wife and dog is important to me.”
Leonard spoke with SN last week as part of a promotional interview on behalf of Coors Brewing. He covered the unusual nature of this offseason, how he is approaching his impending free agency and what players can do to ensure their social justice efforts continue outside of the bubble.
(Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.)
SPORTING NEWS: You mentioned the grind in the bubble. Obviously, you guys played the last game of the season. With all the news about potential start dates for next season — we’ve heard late December, then we’ve heard Martin Luther King Day — what are you hearing about the start of the upcoming season and where discussions stand?
MEYERS LEONARD: I can only speak for myself in terms of what I feel about it. I’m gonna do whatever I’m told. I love my job, I’m blessed and all those things. So if the season starts around Christmas, fine. Is that a shorter offseason than anticipated? Yes. Would I like to have more time to work on my game just as I always do in Los Angeles every offseason? Yes, of course. But, again, I seriously mean this: I am so thankful every single day of my life to compete at the highest level and to play a game I love and to take care of my family. So really, it’s a no-brainer for me to just do what I’m told. That’s just who I am as a person.
But I would say — and this isn’t that I’ve had conversations with these people — but take Jimmy Butler and LeBron [James], for example. Those are high-usage guys, a lot of load, lot of minutes, and they could probably use some time to relax their bodies and recover, and mentally, to just get away. The grind is real, period. The bubble was something totally different than anyone had literally ever gone through.
I would say that there is a part of me as a player, in trying to understand what most players would say, I’d be like, “All right, cool. I would lean more toward an MLK, Jan. 18 start than I would a Christmas start.” But then, there’s the more business-minded thought process that says, “Well, the players’ money is stake. Everybody’s money is at stake. There are TV deals in place. Can we get fans in the arena? When can we do that?”
Hearing from multiple prominent player agents that have communicated w/their clients that the union is highly likely to accept the NBA’s proposal for a 72-game 2020-21 season beginning Dec. 22. “We have to,” one agent said. The projected losses of waiting later are too great.
— David Aldridge (@davidaldridgedc) November 4, 2020
There are so many different components to this that I just don’t have the answers to. It’s just an interesting time we’re all living in, and everyone’s been impacted by it. I’m just gonna do my best. I’m gonna grind as hard as I possibly can for the amount of time that I have, and then I’m gonna show up for camp ready to go. To give you a more clear answer, if someone was to take a poll of every NBA player that’s currently in the league, I would say a majority of people would pick Jan. 18 over Christmas, I would think.
SN: In addition to the season start date, there is a condensed offseason calendar, too. You’re set to become a free agent. We don’t have a firm free-agency date after the draft. In terms of your approach to free agency, how much do you know about that time period and what kind of market there could be for you and other free agents?
ML: From a timeline perspective, that will all handle itself. The draft will happen, then free agency will start. From more of a money perspective, I have an agent for a reason. I mean that. I hire him to handle the logistics. I hire him to talk to teams, figure out who’s interested, what might make sense from a role perspective, a team perspective, etc. While money certainly matters, it doesn’t matter that much to me. Everyone wants to feel as though they have some sort of respect around the league. That doesn’t matter all that much to me, but there is that component.
Beyond that, there’s more to me than just money. It’s winning, having a significant role, whether it’s starting or coming off the bench, 20-25 minutes. I’ve really shown people that I can play and impact the game every night. When I was starting every game for the Heat prior to getting hurt, I think that I really showed people what I’m capable of, and there’s still more to come. I know that. That’s why I’m always excited for every offseason. It’s because I continue to add more, continue to polish my game, continue to watch film and understand myself, understand other players around the league and how I can be better.
I loved Miami. I loved Jimmy and [coach Erik Spoelstra] and Bam [Adebayo] and the rest of the guys. They all appreciated me for what I did. Let’s say in a game against an elite offensive rebounder, I’d say, “Bam, listen, I’m taking him out of the game tonight. No problem. Come get every rebound.” I don’t care if you go to ESPN and look up whatever, six points, five rebounds. Trust me when I tell you I don’t care.
Is there some legitimacy to that? Yes. Does every NBA player want to score a bunch of points, take a bunch of shots? Yeah, it’d be crazy to say that anyone doesn’t. However, it matters more to me to win and to have a significant role, a role that people appreciate you for. That’s what I tried to do all year long in Miami. Use my voice as a communicator, box out so we get the rebound. Sure, I’ll get some rebounds. Could I chase down more rebounds? Yeah. Do I space the floor well? Yes. Have I shot over 40 percent on 3-pointers as a 7-footer for three straight years? Yes. Do I continue to work on my game? Yes. Am I confident? Yes.
But I ultimately just want to impact winning. That’s what matters to me. What I’m looking for in free agency from Miami or whomever else, it’s to be on a contending team that’s going to be going to the playoffs and competing for a title. That’s my hope. Lastly, to play and have a significant role.
SN: I wanted to ask about the social justice efforts within the bubble. You added your voice to that conversation and said it’s important to continue to support the Black community. How do you as players — and also the NBA as a league with all of its resources — how do you pull that momentum from the bubble and keep it going? How do you carry that over to 2021?
ML: I would just say the easiest answer is through social media. A lot of these guys have massive platforms, and they’re able to reach a lot of people that way. A lot of times, people listen. They watch. They want to see what athletes are doing. They want to know what they feel, what they think about. I think athletes are becoming more and more comfortable being willing to share maybe some more personal stuff and pull the curtain back a little bit and really show people just who they are. I would say social media would be the main thing right now to just carry that momentum over because COVID is still very real. Going places in person is, for me I would say, I know it’s not necessarily a comfortable thing. I continue to live my life, not living scared. The main thing would be social media, guys continuing to voice their opinions, tell people how they feel on all different issues and topics.
Right now, obviously, there’s still a need for discussion around the African American community and Black Lives Matter and things that continue to happen, which are very unfortunate events in America. I’ve done my best to explain myself, why I stood for the [national] anthem. I stood for the anthem because my brother served two combat tours in Afghanistan for the United States Marine Corps, and, really, my main initiative off the floor has always been the military. I’ve sat with Navy SEAL [Team] Six operators, like lead snipers, guys that have taken on the worst of the worst and the bad of the bad, and listened to these guys and how much pain they have in their voices. You would think these guys are invincible. But they’re not. These people come back broken, physically and mentally, and need help. That real, raw emotion that I feel in my heart toward those people and that anthem and that flag means something to me.
That first time when I stood, if you were to see a video of it, I had to put my head down because it was tough. I’m an emotional guy. But I knew that I had Jimmy and UD [Udonis Haslem] and the rest of my team, the entire Miami Heat organization, their support. That meant a whole hell of a lot to me. The fact that I stood between Jimmy and UD — two very prominent players, period, but obviously they’re African American — they literally put their arms around me. That meant something to me.
On the other side of the token, I know that as a man who grew up, regardless of the fact that I was poor as hell and didn’t have anything, I still had white privilege. That’s very real. I have to use my voice and help other people understand, maybe that are like me or have had similar upbringings. I come from a white community. We’re all good-hearted people, but sometimes people need to be educated. They need to know that I’ve been around the African American culture since my AAU days, into college, into the NBA. All these things matter.
The way to explain it is that emotion that I felt and feel toward the military, my brother and those things, it’s the same [emotion] that some African Americans have felt when these horrific things happen. That’s very real pain, and people need to know that. They need to understand that. They need to understand that things need to change, and there needs to be real support put behind these people. My wife and I donated $100,000 to the city of Miami, in particular two African American communities in Liberty City and Overtown, that have been absolutely crushed by voter suppression and COVID. These people need help. So if I have the resources, I’m gonna help. And if I have a voice, I’m going to speak.
I tend to ramble sometimes, and obviously I’ve spoken about this at length. But the point is, honestly, I know who I am. I know what I stand for. I have a good heart. I love all people. We have to continue to push the message forward. I’m going to help people however I can. It doesn’t matter to me if you’re tall, short, white, black. I don’t care. I want to help people. I want to impact people. And that’s that.
Post Malone Spent Whopping $1.6 Million on Diamond Teeth
This news comes via Page Six that Thomas Connelly recently posted a photo on Instagram of Post Malone revelling in a $1.6 million...
Justin Bieber and DaBaby to headline Made In America Festival 2021
Justin Bieber and DaBaby have been announced as the 2021 headliners of Jay-Z‘s Made In America Festival. The Philadelphia event is making a return...
‘Gone Girl’ Actor Lisa Banes Dies After Hit-and-Run Scooter Crash in NYC
“Gone Girl” and “Cocktail” actor Lisa Banes has died a little more than a week after she was critically injured in...
Everything coming to Netflix in June of 2021
Netflix is getting ready for the summer with a slew of new movies and TV shows coming to its library in...
AMC Raises $230 Million From Equity Sales for Acquisitions, Investments
According to Variety, Leading cinema chain AMC is raising $230.5 million to purchase additional cinema leases and grow the consumer appeal of...
Matrix 4 is Coming – But Details Are Shrouded in Secrecy
An as yet untitled fourth Matrix film is happening, but that’s about as much as viewers know at the moment....
Comedy duo makes trailer for the first Arab Superhero movie
With a lack of diversity in the superhero world, and a need for more positive Middle Eastern representation, a Toronto...
NBA playoff bracket 2021: TV schedule, scores, Round 2 results
We will soon find out which teams will reach the Eastern and Western Conference finals as the 2021 NBA playoffs move to the second...
Jake Paul vs. Tyron Woodley fight date, time, PPV price, odds & location for 2021 match
The rivalry between the two has been heated as both promise knockouts on Aug. 28. Here’s everything you need to know...
College World Series bracket 2021: TV schedule, channels for NCAA baseball tournament
Here is a complete guide for how to follow along with all the action coming up in the 2021 College...
3 Indispensable Drafting Tips for Fantasy MLB
Image Source: KeithJJ/Pixabay Anyone who has played fantasy sports before being successful in fantasy sports needs to get out of...
How Randle & Thibodeau Have Transformed the New York Knicks
The revival of the New York Knicks has been one of the stories of the NBA season. After a seven-year...
Relegation: The Trio of Clubs Descending from the English Premier League
For passionate soccer fans, there’s arguably nothing worse than the sinking feeling of relegation. The most loyal will always cheer...
Thomas Tuchel: Has He Made Mason Mount into a EURO 2020 Game Changer?
When Thomas Tuchel took over at Stamford Bridge on January 26th, 2021, Blues’ supporters were excited about the club’s future....