LeBron James Sees Nothing Wrong With Friendships Among NBA Rivals

by October 29, 2013

So-called old school fans and media often bellyache about the buddy-buddy relationships between this generation of NBA players. This lack of animosity among rivals is associated with a low competitive drive compared to the days of yore. LeBron James completely disagrees with this narrow view. Per Bleacher Report:

“Pat Riley, who plucked James out of Ohio in 2010, was long inflexible on this topic, chiding the likes of Alonzo Mourning and Patrick Ewing—two former Georgetown teammates and two of his favorite players—for socializing while their teams faced off in the NBA playoffs. Riley, however, has never publicly said anything negative about the way that James interacts with (Kevin) Durant, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony or others. ‘It’s a different time,’ James said. ‘I mean, we don’t…there’s not too much going to dinner with guys on other teams during the season. There is communication. But it’s a different time. I’ve been knowing guys on different teams way before this NBA thing. There wasn’t no AAU back in the days, when those guys were playing.’

When asked about shows like NBA TV’s Open Court, in which former players trade colorful anecdotes, James surprisingly scoffs: ‘A lot of those guys get on those shows, and they start fraternizing, they start telling tales. To be honest, I ain’t gonna throw no names out there, because that’s not what I do, but a lot of those guys get on those shows and they start lying. They do. Just to make it feel good for the show. Like they weren’t friends with nobody. Like, seriously. Get out of here.’ Shane Battier, his elder teammate, has seen more fraternizing over the course of his career. But he too takes issue with any assumption that, in a previous age, NBA players were all off on their own, and thus significantly more serious. ‘The narrative that the NBA has sold for the past 20 years is (Michael) Jordan,’ Battier said. ‘That Jordan was a solitary soldier. No friends. And even the friends he had, Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley, he tried to rip their hearts out every game. And (Larry) Bird and Magic (Johnson) and Isiah (Thomas), the stories about those guys being so cutthroat are legendary. So that’s sort of the narrative that fans want to believe. That’s not necessarily fair. There are a lot of guys on our team and in our league that still have that demeanor; it’s just not publicized.’

Even so, James does acknowledge some differences in the times. ‘A lot of those guys didn’t know each other until college. And not even college—until they got to the NBA,’ James said. ‘So they were just meeting each other, and they were getting right into the fire. I’ve been friends with Chris Paul since I was, what, eight years old? And with Carmelo (Anthony) since I was a sophomore in high school. And me and (Dwyane) Wade came in as rookies same time, we started a friendship, and the list goes on and on.’ … ‘It’s a new era, man,’ James said. ‘And there’s nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t take the competitive spirit out of (anything), man. And I think people need to realize that. You don’t have to hate somebody to compete against somebody. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if my mom is on the floor—I don’t want her to win, I don’t want her to score. When I step out on that floor, people know. People know that (when) I go out and I play, the minutes I’m out on the floor, if they’re not ready, I’m going to dominate them. And even if most of the time when they are ready, I’m still going to dominate them.'”