Behold a man in demand. I mean, really, you know how many people want time with LeBron James? The Cavs and NBA, for starters, on the basketball side. Nike and Samsung, among others, on the endorsement side. Bike companies, charities, rappers and real-estate agents on the “off-duty” side. I don’t write any of this out of pity—LeBron himself has said he wants to be a “global icon,” and requests on his time are pretty much a given with such a goal—but I’m stating facts. Shoot, the day I’m writing this, LeBron was named Forbes’ “Most Valuable Athlete Brand.”
As any of you with your own busy schedules—kids juggling practices and homework, coaches balancing games with family life, editors doubling as publishers (*winks*)—know, the only way to manage such time crunches is to make choices. For LeBron, the media asks alone probably equal all the other requests on his time. Given that he has to talk after every game by the collectively bargained League rules, and that there’s enough action photos of him to satisfy the thirstiest print or web outlets’ needs, the King could shoot down every last one of the requests he gets and he’d still be arguably the most visible athlete in the world.
And yet…when SLAM asks for time, as we did on the eve of this year’s training camp, LeBron often says yes (tell me how many other exclusive photo shoots of him from this preseason you see before shrugging at his willingness to pose for us). This gift of his time says something about LeBron—the man is undyingly loyal, as evidenced by the way he still rolls with his friends from high school, or even the way he keeps giving Lee Jenkins at Sports Illustrated great interviews. The fact that the gift of time is given to SLAM also says something about us—from the pre-fame portion of his high school career to the Cavs to one of his first post-Decision interviews, we have always been willing to give LeBron’s side of the story. And we—as you can see in the byline for the write up in which we rank LeBron as the best player in the NBA—still includes Ryan Jones, who has been SLAM’s main connect to LeBron for all this time. It’s been a busy month for the Ryan-LeBron business, as he complements his No. 1 piece with a masterful cover story in the mag. This issue also features a classic pic of young Ryan with young LeBron, not to mention our NBA Preview (written before a certain player got hurt), the print version of the #SLAMTop50 for all you junkies out there and features on guys such as crafty veteran Andre Iguodala and fun-loving youngster Victor Oladipo.
It’s no coincidence that guys like Andre and Vic are as happy to give us time as LeBron is. We treat just about all players with fairness and respect. There is undoubtedly a place in this media landscape for hard-hitting journalism that covers basketball like the multi-billion dollar industry it is, but I’d argue there is also still a huge place for doing things the way we’ve done them forever—celebrating the game we love and the players who make it great. Seems like LeBron feels the same way.
portraits by Tom Medvedich