LeBron James, GQ, J.R. Moehringer, and ESPN

GQ came out with a fascinating piece on LeBron James by J.R. Moehringer today. ESPN’s SportsCenter felt left out, so they decided to get JRM on the phone to discuss James. Below are some compelling quotes from JRM.

SC: Let’s take you back a couple of weeks before The Decision was publicly announced. You first met with him on June 25th. What then was your sense of where his decision stood?

JRM: I got the sense that he was still undecided. He even made fun of himself with me. He said he was going to be like Brett Favre and drag it out all summer. I think he wanted to go with Miami, that was clear. But he didn’t know if it would be possible, if there would be enough money. And I think part of him always wanted to stay in Ohio. I don’t think L.A. or New Jersey or any of the other teams were really ever in the running. He was leaning toward Miami. It seems clear in retrospect, leaning heavily, but he had not made up his mind when I first met him.

SC: Your next meeting then comes with him about a week later, early July. His announcement, though, still about a week away. And in that meeting that you had in the city of Akron, where he is from, the subject of Cleveland arose. And James had this to say to you:

  • “It’s not far, but it is far. And Clevelanders, because they were the bigger-city kids when we were growing up, looked down on us. So we didn’t actually like Cleveland. We hated Cleveland growing up. There’s a lot of people in Cleveland we still hate to this day.”
  • JRM: Well, it’s not far, but it is far. And I think he’s had trouble all his life bridging that gap. He doesn’t consider himself a Clevelander and he took pains to explain to me the difference between Cleveland and Akron. I think if he could’ve played for the Akron Cavaliers, none of this would’ve happened. He’d have signed a new contract and there would’ve been no decision and he’d still be beloved by basketball fans everywhere. But there’s this lifelong ambivalence in LeBron about Cleveland. He grew up feeling intimidated by Cleveland kids, the bigger-city kids, and he resents when his hometown of Akron is folded into Cleveland all the time by outsiders who don’t know the terrain in northeast Ohio. That said, he also loves those fans. He allows that he might play again one day for them, which might be the most jaw-dropping thing that he said to me in our time together. His connection with Akron runs deep, and he doesn’t see any reason why his decision to play in Miami should affect it.

    At this point, SportsCenter goes on to mention how James and his friends enrolled at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, a Catholic school with predominantly white students, instead of the local high school with predominantly African-American students. James was called a traitor then, like he is now, creating a major sense of deja vu. JRM responds below.

    JRM: Basketball has always been his hedge against loneliness, and in high school was when basketball was best for him. He was surrounded by his closest friends on a super team that couldn’t lose, and the game was just fun. And I think he’s trying to recapture that winning formula. He felt really good about raising money for the Boys and Girls Clubs, which he really believes in. And he felt that he’d done everything asked of him, and he seemed to feel that people who had a problem with him and his decision would’ve had a problem no matter how he’d announced it. I think, eventually, he’ll look back and wish that someone in his circle had said this is not a good idea to announce a decision on live TV that’s going to disappoint millions – that won’t fly. He pays a number of people a lot of money to think stuff like that through for him so that he has time to concentrate on basketball, and they let him down. But when I talked to him, he hadn’t arrived at that conclusion yet.

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