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LeBron James Enters NBA COVID Protocols, Could Miss Several Games

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LeBron James was placed in the NBA's COVID-19 health and safety protocols and could miss several games, the Los Angeles Lakers shared Tuesday.

The team has not yet confirmed if James, 36, tested positive for COVID or if he simply came in close contact with someone who tested positive. After entering the league's protocols, the four-time NBA champ — who has already missed 10 games this season due to injuries and one game due to his first-ever suspension — did not participate in Tuesday's game against the Sacramento Kings.

Representatives for James and the Lakers did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

RELATED: LeBron James and Isaiah Stewart Ejected from Lakers vs. Pistons Game Following Bloody Scuffle

LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on during the game against the Indiana Pacers
LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on during the game against the Indiana Pacers

Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

"It's a huge loss," Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said during Tuesday's pregame press conference. "It's disappointing. We just want the best for him right now. That's where our thoughts are. We have a 'next man up' mindset."

Vogel shared that the team learned James was entering the protocol Tuesday morning, and he was sent back to Los Angeles from Sacramento for quarantine. The league's COVID protocols state that James will have to quarantine for 10 days or until he can provide two consecutive negative COVID tests within 24 hours.

"Hopefully, this is something that's short term," Vogel added. "We'll see."

LeBron James
LeBron James

Harry How/Getty

James confirmed in September that he was vaccinated during media day for the 2021 NBA season.

"I know I was very skeptical about it all, but after doing my research and things of that nature, I felt it was best for not only me, but for my family, for my friends. That's why I decided to do it," the father of three continued. "Anything that I talk about, I don't talk about other people and what they should do. I speak for me and for my family, thats what it's about."

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When asked if he feels he needs to be an advocate for his colleagues to be vaccinated, James doubled down on his desire to only speak on behalf of himself and his family.

"We're talking about individuals' bodies. We're not talking about something that's political, or racism, or police brutality or things of that nature. We're talking about people's bodies and well beings. So I don't feel, personally, I should get involved in what people should do for their bodies and their livelihoods," the athlete said at the time. "It would be me talking about if somebody should take this job or not. Listen, you have to do what's best for you and your family."

James noted, "So I did for me and my family, I know some of my friends and what they did for their families. But as far as speaking for everybody and their individualities and things they want to do, that's not my job."

Breakthrough cases — COVID-19 infections that occur in people who have been fully vaccinated against the virus — are possible and expected, as the vaccines are not 100% effective in preventing infections. Still, vaccinated people who test positive will likely be asymptomatic or experience a far milder illness than if they were not vaccinated. The majority of deaths from COVID-19 — around 98 to 99% — are in unvaccinated people.

The current league protocol for COVID does not include a vaccination mandate. Unvaccinated players are allowed to play this season, however, the NBA states that the athletes will have to be tested daily on practice and travel days and at least once on game day along with mandatory mask-wearing.

Fully vaccinated players will not be subject to daily testing.

Meanwhile, local health regulations in specific locations, notably New York and San Francisco areas, require athletes to be vaccinated to play in home games.

Despite missing James, the Lakers beat the Kings Tuesday night 117-92.

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