The quotes started coming out yesterday afternoon. LeBron James decided to do a pretty extensive interview with Larry King. While I found myself laughing at the fact that a sometimes confused and befuddled Larry King was going to conduct an interview with the guy that everyone wants to hear specific answers from. After reading through the partial transcript, it isn’t nearly as bad as some of the other Larry King interviews of late. Larry must have consumed plenty of Garlique and Welch’s Grape Juice earlier in the day or something. So how about the juicy parts?
First of all, the stuff related to LeBron’s free agency…
JAMES: Well, I mean, to me, I think my ultimate — my ultimate goal is winning championships and — and I understand that me going down as one of the greats will not happen until I, you know, win a championship. So for me, the team that I decided to go toward (INAUDIBLE) in Cleveland, that ultimately has — has the best chance for me to win a championship not one year, but multiple years. But for me to continue to get better and help that team win, I think, ultimately, would be my decision. I’m going to do what’s best for me and my family.
KING: So can we say it will not be a poor team, a team of players who you do not calculate would be there to win championships, because you can’t play forever?
JAMES: No, I cannot play forever. And that is absolutely right. But the team that I go to or — or, you know, whatever the case may be, will have an opportunity to win championships in multiple years and not just because of LeBron James.
KING: So it has to be a good team?
KING: All right.
Do you lean at all toward the place you know the best?
I mean do they have an edge going in…
JAMES: Oh, absolutely.
KING: — your home team?
JAMES: Absolutely. Because, you know, this city, these fans, I mean, have given me a lot in these seven years. And, you know, for me, it’s comfortable. So I’ve got a lot of memories here. And — and so it does have an edge.
But it’s a — it’s a very — it’s going to be a very interesting summer and I’m looking forward to it.
Well, so right there, if the mainstream press wanted to be honest, they would almost unequivocally eliminate both New York and New Jersey, right? So the Vegas odds should have Cleveland in the lead followed by Chicago and maybe the L.A. Clippers. I know the Clippers is a longshot, but they have better players than either NY or NJ in all probability, right? Look, I don’t want to speculate where he will end up, but I have no problem eliminating teams.
Next they talk about the free agent get-together…
KING: All right. Now, there’s a story circulating today — I don’t know if it’s true, so I wrote it down just to make sure.
KING: You can tell me — that you’re going to get together, you, with Bosh and Wade and Stoudemire and Lee and Johnson and Allen and The Witsky (ph) and all of you sort of…
KING: This is funny?
JAMES: We can be like a little committee?
JAMES: A little free agent committee.
KING: (INAUDIBLE) give a shot at it, a free agent committee. No one can stop you. You’re all free agents. The league can’t tell you not to do this.
KING: What if you go there and I go here and we go here?
Is that possible?
JAMES: I don’t know to that extent, but it will be fun. It will be fun to get all the free agents together and, you know, figure out a way how we can make the league better.
JAMES: Figure out a way how we can make ourselves…
KING: (INAUDIBLE) do that.
JAMES: No, if — if we could, you know, we would — you know, if it was like baseball, we would all go to the same team.
KING: You can’t do that?
JAMES: No, we can’t do that.
KING: (INAUDIBLE) cap?
KING: But you can get together and discuss for the better of the league…
JAMES: No, we can…
KING: — if I went here and you played there, right, you…
JAMES: Oh, I mean, and in certain situations where you may be able to pair with a — with a goop (ph) one or two guys and — and better that franchise and guys better these
franchises. But I think this is the most — this is the most sought out summer in — in basketball history, because of all the free agents.
KING: Are you the ringleader of the group?
JAMES: I am the ringleader.
The jokes about that last line were flying fast and furious about how Dwyane Wade would be the (Championship) ring leader with one. Then I read someone else say much later that technically the ring leader will be Derek Fisher when he finishes playing in the finals. The person who will take the most pride in this portion of the interview is David Stern. He can sit back and know that even though a bunch of players want to get together and maybe do some things, that his rules have protected the competitive balance of the league to some extent. Even if LeBron James leaves Cleveland, it is undeniable that the NBA has set up a system where the home team truly has a legitimate competitive advantage to re-signing free agents. LeBron’s comment about this not being baseball had to have Stern beaming.
The final bit that I found interesting is LeBron talking about prejudice and racism. After Larry King talked to him about his tough upbringing around gangs and in projects in Akron, they had this exchange.
KING: Did you see a lot of prejudice?
JAMES: Growing up? No, not really, because growing up you was around African-Americans every day. And there was no prejudice. We all —
KING: What about white Americans?
JAMES: I didn’t — I wasn’t around white Americans until the ninth grade when I went to high school. There was no prejudice growing up.
KING: How about then?
JAMES: I don’t think so. When I went to St. Vincent-St. Mary, which is a catholic school —
KING: Predominate catholic school?
JAMES: Yes, yes. Predominately white. I didn’t see any prejudice at all. I think they accepted us for us being students, for being students and athletes and I didn’t see any at all.
KING: Do you think because of the nature of the school?
JAMES: I think so. I think the nature of the school is one family. You know, when you’re an eighth grader and you’re going into circumstances you haven’t been part of, you automatically think it may be some prejudice, but it wasn’t any.
I find this bit especially interesting because of one of LeBron James’ recent supporters was Browns legend Jim Brown. The same Jim Brown that has publicly criticized Tiger Woods for failing to speak about social issues regarding race. It makes me wonder what Jim Brown might think about the next generation of athletes like LeBron that seem to be even further removed from the prejudice and racism that has been such a lifelong mission for Jim Brown to combat. Will Jim Brown look at LeBron’s statements as some sort of victory for his movement or will he be disappointed that James apparently isn’t picking up where Jim Brown will ultimately have to leave off? I don’t want to put words in LeBron James’ mouth, but doesn’t his upbringing almost sound post-racial?
I will leave this here and maybe it can get the attention it deserves as a topic for another day. It would certainly require more research than reading a few lines of LeBron’s Larry King interview. This post is starting to get too long. There is a lot more with LeBron talking about his childhood and the powerful people who have been courting him from NYC Mayor Bloomberg and President Obama.
The Larry King Live show is on CNN.