LeBron James' Weed-Smoking Gesture On The Court: A Shift In NBA Cannabis Culture?

When Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James made a playful gesture of puffing on an imaginary joint after missing a layup in a Sunday game against the Houston Rockets and then sharing it with teammate Christian Wood, it sparked a wave of speculation and humor. 

It also underscored the fact that the NBA has evolved to become more accepting of marijuana, in keeping with broader societal changes such as the recent legalization of recreational weed in James' home state of Ohio.

Policy Changes In The NBA: In late March, the NBA struck a deal with the National Basketball Players Association to end testing for cannabis and penalties for its use. The change followed similar policies already underway in professional baseball, hockey and the NFL.

In this context, James' pot-smoking pantomime during the game last weekend, in which he scored 37 points, was more symbolic than consequential and went unmentioned by the league. Though Jesse Washington of Andscape caught it.

Cultural Shift: The lack of repercussions reflects a cultural shift, noted Washington, recalling times when athletes like Allen Iverson and Ricky Williams faced serious consequences for marijuana use.

James' actions signify a new era where marijuana is increasingly normalized in sports and society. 

“It doesn’t matter that the weed was imaginary. It was a cultural moment that signals a passing of the … torch in America,” Washington said. 

James, known for his physical fitness and love for wine, isn't necessarily advocating for marijuana use or legalization. His antics, says Washington, were more about entertainment and team camaraderie than a statement on marijuana.

Meanwhile, numerous former NBA players, including Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Allen Iverson, Kevin DurantAl Harrington, Isiah Thomas and others have been open about their weed use and have advocated for cannabis legalization for years. 

“I started smoking cannabis in college. During my sophomore year,” Iverson has said

Now a weed connoisseur, Iverson joined forces with Harrington’s Viola Brands to create a line of cannabis products and merchandise under The Iverson Collection name.

Harrington, along with Calvin "Megatron" Johnson, Ben Wallace, Ricky Williams and Rob Sims attended the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference in Chicago in the fall of 2022, and no doubt they’ll be back. And, LeBron, you're invited too.

Photo: Erik Drost on flickr.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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