What happens in Vegas… ESPN pulls unflattering LeBron James story

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Thumbnail image for d-wade-king-james.jpgUPDATE: 3:48 pm: CNBC’s Darren Rovell got this comment from ESPN:

ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz tells us why the LeBron Vegas story was
pulled: “The story should have never been published. The draft was
inadvertently put on the server before going through the usual editorial
process. We are in the midst of looking into the matter.”

Sounds a lot like spin. Not that we expected anything else.

3:00 pm: We woke up this morning to a fleshed out picture of the life an influences on LeBron James — ESPNLosAngeles’ Arash Markazi was a part of LeBron’s entourage and followed him around for a night in Vegas, living life on the inside, then filed the report.

We’d link to it, but ESPN pulled it. What happens in Vegas did not stay in Vegas, and somebody didn’t like it. The story was taken down. However, there are stored versions all over the Web, such as at Deadspin or Black Sports Online.

LeBron sought out a brighter spotlight to stand in, but he may be finding the realty is not as much fun as the dream.

Read the article, it is a fantastic bit or lifestyle writing. And you do not live LeBron’s lifestyle. The groupies around, the pretending to dribble and shoot jumpers as you walk through a Vegas casino as people stare, the five bodyguards to keep people at a distance, the bottles popping, the life of a true VIP in Vegas. That and LeBron getting six figures for having his name attached to the weekend party in Vegas.

He comes off as immature, rich with a huge ego and acting like the world revolves around him. Not sure that any of this is a surprise, or really all that out of the ordinary for what passes for ordinary in Vegas. Still, the details paint an unflattering picture. Especially when you think of Kobe busting it in a gym somewhere to get better and Kevin Durant resting up for another day of Team USA practices at the same time.

What is interesting is that ESPN pulled the story not long after it first went up. We don’t know what was considered on or off the record, or why the story was pulled, but I don’t see what was so offensive as to lead to the story needing to be yanked. I know Markazi and he is a good reporter and writer, the kind of guy who gets things right.

One’s mind jumps to what seems the most likely possibility — LeBron and his people freaked out after reading it and then demanded it be pulled. They probably threatened libel. And ESPN obliged, not wanting the fight. Sort of like Nike freaking out about video of LeBron getting dunked on at his camp.

Don’t want to leap to that conclusion, but if you’re a fan of Occam’s razor, where the simplest explanation is usually the correct one, then LeBron freaking out makes the most sense. ESPN backing down shows where the calls are made — money gets to ride in the limo, journalistic integrity can wait at the curb. But we will see what the spin is when it comes.

Either way, go read the story.

Report: With new building set to open, Sacramento pushes to host 2020 All-Star Game

The Sacramento Kings released the NBA basketball team's new logo, Tuesday, April 26, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif. The new logo has a reshaped crown and new typeface meant to convey a modern look. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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In just a few weeks, the new arena that kept the Kings in Sacramento is set to open. It’s a well-designed basketball-first facility that both the fans and players should love.

Now the Kings want to show that building off to everybody and host a future All-Star Game, reports James Ham of CSNCalifornia.com.

It’s not uncommon for a team with a new building to get to host the All-Star Game. The 2017 game is in New Orleans, 2018 is in Los Angeles, 2019 will go to Charlotte if the “bathroom bill” is repealed (or strongly modified). That makes 2020 the next one up.

The Kings new building is in downtown Sacramento, in a growing area close to the California state capital. The only question is whether that area has enough hotel rooms and nearby convention space to handle the massive influx of people that come to an All-Star Game. The league office has this mapped out, it knows how many hotel rooms it needs in close proximity to the arena, for example. If Sacramento can meet all those qualifications, it could well land the February showdown.

Sixers players have dinner with Will Smith

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 24:  Actor Will Smith attends the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' "Focus" at TCL Chinese Theatre on February 24, 2015 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Ali. Men in Black. I am Legend. Fresh Prince. Suicide Squad. Independence Day. Plus more than a few movies he’d like us to forget (hello Hancock).

Will Smith is all that — and part owner of the Philadephia 76ers.

As training camp opened, Smith took his team out to dinner, according to the Sixers official site.

Jahlil Okafor and his teammates weren’t told that the Oscar-nominated and Grammy-winning entertainer from West Philadelphia would be dining with them.

“It was great, it was a lot of fun,” said Okafor, who participated in Tuesday’s practice, despite sustaining a minor ankle sprain a few weeks ago. “Will Smith is my favorite celebrity, my favorite actor. It was great to hear him speak.”

Smith shared stories and passed along advice to a crowd consisting mostly of early to mid 20-year olds who grew up on his movies and albums.

“I think the main thing he said is the company you have around you,” Joel Embiid said. “He was trying to explain the people you have around you affect the type of person you are. He was just trying to tell us to have good people around. That’s the main thing I got from that.”

It’s a good lesson for the Sixers in what could be a season of lessons coming for the Philadephia. This team is going to be better than it was a year ago, but don’t confuse that with good. They may get there someday, but there are a lot of hard lessons to learn between now and then.

But it’s a lot more fun to get some of those lessons from Will Smith.

Report: Other teams offered Denver first round picks for Will Barton, answer was no

PHOENIX, AZ - DECEMBER 23:  Will Barton #5 of the Denver Nuggets reacts after scoring against the Phoenix Suns during the second half of the NBA game at Talking Stick Resort Arena on December 23, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Nuggets defeated the Suns 104-96. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Picking up Will Barton as part of the Arron Afflalo trade a couple of seasons back was one of the smartest moves of the Nuggets front office. Before last season they signed him to a three-year, $10 million deal and he blossomed as his jumper became a real weapon — this season he’s a guy to watch in the Sixth Man of the Year race.

A good player on a good contract? You can be sure other teams will try to poach him.

Which is exactly what happened, reports Christopher Dempsy at the Denver Post.

Now he’s being praised after a breakout season that landed him in the thick of the conversation for postseason awards, that had other teams offering first-round picks to nab him, and that had opponents highlighting him on scouting reports as a player to stop.

At age 25 Barton is part of a young core in Denver that includes Emanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris, Nikola Jokic and others. Why would Denver let Barton go?

At some point maybe Denver will move him to get a player at a position they need more. But that time is not today, Barton is still part of the plan in Denver. And it’s going to take him a lot to pry him away (that first round pick is going to have to be high up the board).

LeBron James on surpassing Michael Jordan: “It’s a personal goal”

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 26: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during media day at Cleveland Clinic Courts on September 26, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Since he was a teenager, LeBron James has been compared to Michael Jordan. That comparison has usually been used as a way to cut him down or explain why he’s not in the same class, but that’s changed since he won his third championship, and first in Cleveland, in June. Now, LeBron has started to be a lot more open about his desire to eventually surpass Jordan. He said so in an interview with the AP’s Tom Withers after practice on Tuesday:

Now that LeBron James has won a championship for the ages, he’s set a loftier goal:

Catching Michael Jordan.

Long flattered to be mentioned in the same company with Jordan and other NBA legends, James has been hesitant to publicly acknowledge that he wants to be remembered as the greatest in league history.

It’s time now.

“It’s a personal goal,” James told The Associated Press on Monday. “I just never brought it up. It’s my own personal goal to be able to be greater than great. I think that should be everybody’s personal goal.”

Now that James has indisputably cemented his legacy as one of the handful of greatest players ever to play the game, he has a lot less to lose by openly talking about these things. Five years ago, he would have gotten killed for bringing it up. Now? It just seems plausible more than anything else.