Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Larry King interview accomplishes LeBron’s goal of diverted attention, what I’d ask; French Open

LeBron James has come out of hiding—sort of. He taped an interview earlier this week with Larry King on CNN in which he apparently tells King that Cleveland has, “the edge,” in terms of signing him once the free agent period begins on July 1.

If you believe that statement has any meaning at all, I would suggest you start baking Santa’s cookies right now because you can never start too early on a task like that.

Let’s start with the venue James chose for his re-coming out party after he absolutely spit the bit in the NBA playoffs against The Boston Celtics. King still has a huge audience—LeBron likes that. King reaches a non-sports audience—LeBron, man of the world, likes that too. King isn’t likely to ask too many tough questions—LeBron likes that most of all.

Now, without benefit of seeing the interview, here are some of the questions I would have asked had I been guest-hosting for King (I actually DID guest host his old radio show years ago but for some reason have never gotten the call from the TV people) on the night LeBron showed up.

1. What the hell happened in the Boston series—especially games five and six and double-especially game five when you were so bad there were people who actually suggested you were tanking?(Follow up if he starts rubbing his elbow: Then what happened in game three when you went off for 38 points? Did you re-injure it? And then: Do you understand why people would be skeptical if this is the best you’ve got as an excuse?).

2. If you’re leaning towards Cleveland, why all the theatrics? You know they will pay you max money, why not just say Cleveland is where you want to be, that you still have unfinished business there?

3. Do you understand how reviled you will be in the state of Ohio if you leave without ever having delivered anything other than boatloads of cash for yourself?

4. If a championship is really your first priority in life (as he will no doubt claim) how about taking a break from peddling products until you produce one? (fat chance but the question might get an interesting answer).

5. Do you understand why people are saying right now that Kobe is a lot better than you as he plays in The Finals for a seventh time and the third straight year without Shaq? By the way, is it sheer coincidence that you scheduled this interview in the middle of The Finals? Is there a little bit of A-Rod (see World Series, game 4, 2007) involved in the timing?

6. What did you mean after game five when you said you had played three bad games in seven years? Three, really? And, to follow up, did you really mean you only disappoint yourself when you play poorly? Those folks paying for tickets and buying all of your products, you aren’t concerned about them?

7. You do understand that no one buys into your numbers in game six? You had nine turnovers and were invisible when the game was on the line.

The one question I would not ask that people might find relevant is the one about his mom and Delonte West. That comes from the wild rumor category and I’d only go there if HE brought it up and somehow decided to confirm it—which I would think is extremely unlikely. My guess is that the tone of the King interview is somewhat different than mine—which may be one of many reasons why King is who he is. He may not be as soft a landing spot as, say, almost anyone on ESPN, but he’s pretty close.

It’s my personal opinion that James isn’t going back to Cleveland. This is not based on any inside information at all, only on my observations of him through the years. To be as great a player as he is—and he IS great even if he hasn’t been able to close the deal in the playoffs yet—you have to have a massive ego. To be surrounded by enablers every day who are no doubt telling him that Michael Jordan should sit at his right hand, probably makes keeping any sort of perspective pretty close to impossible.

Which is why I think his first concern will be the size of the stage and the size of his audience. That to me means New York or it means New Jersey/Brooklyn with the billionaire Russian telling him how he will help market him worldwide. I still don’t see Chicago because he’s going to want a bigger statue than Jordan someday and that’s not happening there. Miami is a dark horse because he might somehow think playing for Pat Riley—or even better, having Riley say he will come back one more time JUST to coach LeBron—makes him even bigger than he already is. Fitting those two egos into one locker room would be worth the price of admission.

In truth, it is all speculation, which is what LeBron wants. The more people talk about his free agency, the less they talk about his meltdown against the Celtics. The more they talk about him at all, the less they talk about Kobe.

So, the King interview does everything LeBron wants it to do. It diverts some attention from Kobe and from The Finals. It allows him to keep people in Cleveland at bay for a while longer with his coy, “Cleveland has the edge,” non-answer and it means he has come out in public without yet facing hard questions about what happened in the Boston series.

It’s too bad the interview was taped. It would have been pretty funny if King had taken questions and had started out with, “New York—you’re next!”


Someone pointed out yesterday that in writing about the sports I was looking forward to paying attention to in the coming week I failed to mention The French Open. Wow, talk about a Freudian slip.

It isn’t that I’m completely un-interested in what goes on at Roland Garros. I have a lot of fond memories of covering the tournament in the 80s and early 90s. I mean, just being in Paris at this time of year, can’t possibly be anything other than a great assignment.

But tennis just doesn’t do it for me the way it once did. Some of it, no doubt, is because I don’t know the players anymore. I know the announcers, not the players. Some of it is, I’m sure, the American drought on the men’s side: no American man has won a major title since Andy Roddick won the U.S. Open in 2003 and there’s no sign that may change in the near future—unless Roddick can finally somehow win Wimbledon.

I may be the one guy on earth who doesn’t enjoy watching Maria Sharapova play. Healthy, she’s a superb player and she’s drop dead gorgeous but the screams on every single shot are just too much for me. She makes Monica Seles sound like a mute. And, fairly or unfairly, even though I recognize the brilliance of the Williams sisters, I have never been able to enjoy them as much as I should. Some of it may be their need to constantly call attention to everything BUT their tennis; some of it may be that they are never gracious in defeat—it’s always, “I gave her the match,”—and some of it is the respect I lost for Serena after her behavior at the Open last fall. (Not to mention her moron agent sticking her hand in front of the CBS camera afterwards).

So, I’ll probably watch at least for a while from the semifinals on—although my pal Mary Carillo won’t be there because she’s flying home for her daughter’s high school graduation this weekend—but the truth is I just won’t be as into it as I was once upon a time. I wish that wasn’t the case, especially since Nadal and Federer appear to be good guys, but that’s the way it is.


John's new book: "Moment of Glory--The Year Underdogs Ruled The Majors,"--is now available online and in bookstores nationwide. Visit your favorite retailer, or click here for online purchases

To listen to 'The Bob and Tom Show' interview about 'Moment of Glory', please click the play button below:


Matt said...

Enjoy you on the Jim Rome show

Mr. X said...

Too bad Rome won't let you link to your interview from yesterday.

Mark said...

Well John, since you brought it up, can LeBron win a championship for either the Knicks or Nets? Those are two pretty dysfunctional franchises, are they not?

I am sure your readers would be interested in your take on that question.

pulmcrit1 said...

Your interview on Jim Rome's show was great. Re: Lebron, I don't think his chances of winning improve with the Knicks or Nets, but he may not care. He may be more interested in being in the #1 media market, and/or having the Russian billionaire owner as a pal.

Anonymous said...

If LeBron was serious about winning, he would take a mid-level contract from Cleveland so they could offer a max contract to Bosh. Didn't Jordan take less money than he could have from the Bulls so they could keep guys like Pippen and Kukoc?

Rich, Denver