LeBron James did something far more important than basketball on Monday — he opened a school in Akron to help the disadvantaged youth of his hometown. He relates to those kids, in a “there but for the grace of my basketball gifts go I” kind of way.
This undertaking was a massive challenge for LeBron and his non-profit, but it wasn’t the only challenge he talked about on Monday. When talking to the assembled basketball media, he discussed the challenge of lifting the Lakers back up to the status that franchise expects (and has been nowhere near in recent years). Via Dave McMenamin of ESPN, from LeBron’s interview with Rachel Nichols of the same network.
“I like the challenge of being able to help a team get to places that they haven’t been in quite a while,” James said. “And obviously the Lakers haven’t made the playoffs in a few years, but the Lakers organization and historical franchise matches up there with all the greats. You can look at the Cowboys and you can look at the Patriots, you can look at Manchester United, the Boston Celtics — these are like historical franchises. And for me to be a part of that, I think it’s a great move not only for me but for my family and for the history of basketball in general.”
As for the team assembled by Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka — a interesting young Lakers’ core with Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Kyle Kuzma, now surrounded by some of the more interesting personalities of the league such as Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley, Rajon Rondo, and JaVale McGee — LeBron has high expectations.
“We just got guys that love to play basketball,” James told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols as part of a wide-ranging sit-down interview Monday at the opening of his I Promise School. “At the end of the day, guys that love to play ball, and that’s what they do every single day, I love that. I love that, and I think [Rob] Pelinka and Magic [Johnson] love that as well, and that’s why they made the signings. And bringing Lance and JaVale and Beas and Rondo, they’re guys that every day that they wake up they think about the game of basketball. And everything else is secondary.”
LeBron is 33, will turn 34 next season, and while he hasn’t slowed down much yet (he just picks his spots more), does he feel the pressure to win another title in LA sooner rather than later?
“I don’t even look at it like that because I don’t feel like this is going to be one of the last years of my prime,” James said. “That’s another statistic number, and I’ve always been a part of beating the odds in life. So being around my kids a lot, it gives me even more and more time in my youth.”
LeBron also said he gave serious consideration to both Houston and Philadelphia, before choosing to move his family to Los Angeles.