In the newest issue of ESPN The Magazine, Chris Broussard sat down with LeBron James and conducted an interview that was more two guys shooting the sh*t about basketball than the typical mundane cliche filled LeBron piece. For the first time in a long time we get an interesting look into James’ psyche, and for me, two main points stuck out more than everything else.
First, LeBron discussed the oft-argued “killer instinct” that he may or may not posses. “There are different ways to kill, and I don’t think people understand that. Everybody wants everybody to kill the same way. Everybody wants everybody to kill like MJ or kill like Kobe. Magic didn’t kill the way they killed. Does that mean he didn’t have a killer instinct?”
There’s plenty of stuff here, subtle shots at Mike and Kobe, a clearly well thought out rebuttal to those who question his killer instinct and yet another explanation for his thinking (and sometimes overthinking) mans game. LeBron has clearly put some thought into this, and he has a point, which is fine, but people are still going to want him to go full on Hyena and “just go for it” because as the most unstoppable force in the NBA since Shaq, he has the ability to do so.
Second, and almost immediately, he goes on the defensive when he says:
“MJ had a killer instinct for sure. But if people really think that MJ didn’t talk to nobody and didn’t smile on the court, they’re crazy. They’re crazy. I’ve seen him. I was watching a clip the other day of him blockingCharles Barkley, and they’re laughing about the play — on the floor. Right now, if I block Kevin Durant on the floor, or I block Carmelo Anthony and we laugh about it? Ahh, I’m going to get killed [laughing]. I’m telling you. But there are different ways of killing.”
Clearly, LeBron hears the criticism of him and how could he not. In the 24/7 media era, it’s inescapable, he has a Twitter and he’s shown us before than he clearly reads through his mentions. Some of these are valid, but at some point we’re just picking nits off of nits that we’ve already picked aren’t we? He is a four-time MVP, and now a two-time champion with a NBA Finals Game 7 clutch performance under his belt.
But this is where things get a little fuzzy when evaluating LeBron and his accomplishments. At this point in his career, he’s done competing with the rest of the NBA, and even himself. Now he’s competing with those two letters he started that quote off with, MJ. Time has shined Jordan’s diamond reputation to a mirror-like finish, we’ve long since wiped flaws and blemishes off of what we perceive of Michael Jordan’s career. Maybe in time we will do the same with LeBron (the 2011 Finals is going to be hard to forget), but for now those are the lofty standards with which he will be judged by. If anything, it’s an honor.
The topic of one Michael Jeffrey Jordan is my favorite part of the interview, and gives us the best nugget of the entire piece, but first we get the standard question and cliche LeBron answer:
I mean, when you say you want to be the greatest of all time, Jordan is the one everyone thinks is the greatest.
Yeah, that’s who everyone puts as the best. But you’re always going to have arguments, no matter what. People are going to like Jordan, people are going to like LeBron, people are going to like Kobe and so on. Magic, Bird … But I don’t really think about it too much and say, Okay, I want to catch MJ. I’m saying I want to be the greatest, and I think I have an opportunity to do it just because of my skill set and because I feel like I’ve got a lot of room to improve.
From here LeBron actually opens up a bit about Mike, now that he’s become the topic of conversation:
Do you wish you had more of a relationship with Jordan?
[Leans back pensively and starts smiling, as if he's not sure he should answer the question] Ahhh, I mean, I don’t know. That’s a trick question. I do. I do at times. You know, he’s somebody who I looked up to, and I’ve never had a conversation with him about the game. I would love to sit down with him and just know exactly what he was going through and know what was his mind frame throughout all his special years. Throughout his pains — you know, not being able to get past Detroit, then overcoming Detroit. Or asking him, “Why did you retire? What made you come back? What made you come back again?” You know, everything that we all think we know. Just kind of having a sit-down conversation.
[LeBron is seemingly done, winding down his thought. But then he pipes up, realizing there's more he wants to say. He gets louder, more animated.] And then also to hear him talk about me. I would like to know what he thinks about my game and ways I can get better. He probably thinks he can beat me one-on-one right now [laughing]. I know he probably thinks that. I know MJ definitely thinks he can beat me one-on-one right now.
Well, I had no f*cking clue LeBron and Mike were Jesse Pinkman and Walter freaking White. It’s actually kind of fun to see things with Mike and Bron going the way of Walt and Jesse, (spoilers) MJ always chastising LBJ until one day, after years of torture and being forced to play basketball at the highest degree ever by a group of neo-Nazis (Twitter, Skip Bayless and everybody else) Mike finally acknowledges that his surrogate child is now his equal and lets him live. The LeBron flees to Alaska with his surrogate son Da Real Lambo and lives happily ever after or whatever you think happened to Jesse Pinkman after the Breaking Bad finale.
All jokes aside, it feels almost intrusive to hear LeNron outright begging for his hero’s approval, wondering aloud what Mike, his idol, would say about his game, but that’s what makes the honesty of this interview so great. James touches on other topics, such as his preparation for the upcoming season, and his desire for brothers as a single child and more, but it’s the moments like the cry for Mike’s approval that remind you that this is just a 28-year-old guy living his dream and trying to be his idol. The entire piece is worth a read, and invites the reader into LeBron’s mind state as he looks towards the chance at a three-peat and where he will stand in basketball history when it’s all said and done.
But really, I can’t believe I like something Chris Broussard did.
Previously: QoTD: Michael Jordan vs. Kobe/LeBron One-On-One?
Photo: Bryan Armen Graham