LeBron James says after 'crazy' night seeking refuge, family still displaced by fire

ByDave McMenamin ESPN logo
Wednesday, October 30, 2019

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- When LeBron James exits Staples Center on Tuesday night after the Los Angeles Lakers play the Memphis Grizzlies, he is unsure where he'll go next.

James and his family were evacuated from their Brentwood, California, home around 2 a.m. PT Monday and have been staying at a hotel ever sincebecause of the Getty Fire.

The fire, covering more than 600 acres in the Mandeville Canyon, has already damaged or destroyed more than a dozen structures.

James said he received the first notification about the fire around 1:30 a.m. Monday -- hours after the Lakers' win against the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday night -- and an evacuation notice 15 minutes later. He could see the fire raging in the distance from the roof of his house.

"We finally got out of the house after 2 o'clock and finally got somewhere to safety around 4 a.m. in the morning," James said after the Lakers' shootaround Tuesday morning, adding that he only thought to grab his credit card and passport on his way out the door. "Didn't get to sleep. We finally really got to sleep around like 6 a.m., 6:15. It just ... it was crazy. It was crazy, to say the least."

James and his family piled into the car and sought refuge, only that was a process, too. Just because you're an NBA superstar doesn't mean that hotels keep rooms on hold for you.

"Three hotels were sold out and then the fourth one was able to get us in," he said.

James said he got about two hours of sleep Monday before going into the Lakers' practice facility.

"I got to work," he said, matter of fact.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel opted out of an on-court practice Monday, dismissing his group after they were treated with a visit by magician David Blaine as a part of the Lakers' "Genius Talks" series, organized by general manager Rob Pelinka -- which has also included speakers such as Denzel Washington, Kendrick Lamar and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

"I offered (James) to be able to miss the day and go home and be with his family and whatever, and he just (said) 'No, I'm good to go, to be here at work,'" Vogel recalled. "So it was really more tied to a great experience, a team-building experience. And once it was over, it just felt like the right thing."

Vogel coached the Orlando Magic in 2016 when his team had its training camp affected by Hurricane Matthew, so he is familiar with how a natural disaster can quickly put priorities in order.

"Obviously it's always a little unsettling when something like that is impacting your family, and things are unsettled at home," Vogel said. "But (James is) handling it well."

James' children missed school Monday. "No clothes ... Plus they didn't sleep well," he explained. But all three of them returned to school Tuesday.

Lakers senior basketball advisor Kurt Rambis had loved ones displaced by the fire as well and welcomed family into his home in the wee hours of the morning Monday.

"Right now our area is still under the evacuation period so we're in a hotel right now," James said. "So we're just waiting until it can be cleared and we won't return until they give us 100 percent approval of clearance for us to go back. Luckily our house is still standing as of now, but we're not in the clear. But we're just taking all precautionary measures as a family and as a community as well. Everyone in Brentwood and around that area are just hopefully staying clear of there for now."

James made a point to credit the first responders -- more than 1,000 of them -- who have been working around the clock to try to contain the fire.

"More than anything my appreciation and loyalty to the first responders, those guys -- men and women -- are unbelievable, what they're doing and their bravery throughout this time," James said. "And any time you're dealing with such a situation like that, they're the reason why things can be a lot less worse than they possibly could be. So, it's an amazing job what they do and their commitment with what's going on right now."

James arranged for a taco truck -- it is Tuesday, after all -- to feed lunch to the first responders at their base camp.

"It definitely takes a lot of bravery, a lot of commitment, a lot of sacrifice in any job that you take, but when you're at the risk of your life any time you're called upon, it's a different type of mind state that you have to be in," James said. "So it definitely doesn't go without notice and without appreciation."

As for the Grizzlies game, James said the lack of sleep has affected his recovery in getting ready for the fourth game of the Lakers' season.

"Your body is definitely a little off track," James said. "For me, I'm on a real sleep cycle when it comes to sleeping and preparing for the game. It's kind of been thrown off a lot ... Tried to get as much rest as I could last night and I take a pregame nap as well to get some more rest.

"Having my mind there. My mind will be in the game tonight so I'm not worried about that."

Vogel will keep James' ordeal in mind when managing minutes for the 17-year veteran.

"We'll always be attentive when there's an adverse circumstance like this, just to keep an eye on it and probably over-communicate with him on how he's feeling," Vogel said.

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