The Milwaukee Bucks sparked a paradigm shift when the team refused to play their scheduled playoff game against the Orlando Magic on Aug. 26 following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and many key figures - including Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James - also felt uneasy about continuing the postseason.
However, former U.S. President Barack Obama encouraged the athletes to use their platforms to bring about meaningful, long-term change in a late-night call with James and several other star players.
"The conversation we had was along the lines LeBron spoke about," Obama recalled in a conversation with James and Maverick Carter on Friday's episode of HBO's "The Shop: Uninterrupted."
"Protest is useful in terms of raising awareness but given the power that the NBA players had, my suggestion was that you use that platform to see if you can start asking for some specifics," Obama added.
"This isn't something that's just a one-off. Sadly, what we've seen is that it happens again and again. So, one of the suggestions I had for the players was: Is it possible for you guys to set up an office that allows you, on an ongoing basis, to take best practices that are going to start making incidents like this less likely."
James once again noted he and his Lakers teammates were willing to walk out on the remainder of the season.
"When Milwaukee did what they did - and rightfully so, we understood that - there was no way that none of us could go on the floor," James said. "We stand as a brotherhood ... but there was a time where when we were ready to leave too - the Lakers, myself included, we were ready to leave.
"And we was trying to figure out, if we leave or if we stay, what is our plan? What is our call for action? And I'm lucky enough to have a friend, the 44th president, who allowed me and allowed (Chris Paul) and allowed us to get on the phone with him and get guidance."
The players began laying the groundwork for such long-term initiatives in the days following their call with Obama. On Aug. 28, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association jointly launched the Social Justice Coalition, an organization aimed at promoting civic engagement and voter turnout and advocating for social justice reform.
Obama joked that part of the reason he advocated for more formal measures in his call with the players was that he's too old to be consulted late at night.
"Now, I did have a selfish reason, and I told all these guys, 'Y'all need to set up a more permanent structure so you that don't call me at midnight,'" he said. "See, the young brothers, they're up til 3 in the morning anyway.
"So you'll discover, even you, LeBron, by the time you get to 59, you know, you may not be thinking as clearly at midnight."