May 25, 2017 01:04 PM PST
SINCE 2007

“The King” sits down with “The Dean”

By NICHOLAS VON WETTBERG

This past Wednesday I went to the Philippine Star website hopeful there would be more news on LeBron James’ visit to Manila as part of his ‘Witness History’ tour. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the newspaper’s sports writer Joaquin Henson had procured an exclusive interview with the Miami Heat superstar.



So I turned down the mambo, clicked on the podcast, sank back in my chair and listened to the interview, ready for some good insights. Since only the audio was available, the page had a photo posted of a somewhat serious-looking James that must have been taken during the exchange.

After listening to the four minute-long interview between “The King” and “The Dean,” the photo needed no explanation.

Henson began the session with a bang. He asked James about strategy and the level of game-planning that he has with Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, who as many are well aware is part Filipino and an admired figure in the country.

“Absolutely, we talk a lot about strategies in that instance, but, you know, it’s whatever it takes,” James said. “Spo looks at me and says ‘hey I need it all from you’ and I’ll take that responsibility, I’ll take that challenge.”

In other words, there are times, like in Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, when the go-to play is pass the ball to LeBron and get out of the way.

Following that, Henson phrased the beginning of his second question by saying the series’ with Indiana and San Antonio exposed the Heat’s weakness at center. He then asked James how the team would address that for the upcoming season.

“Oh, well I mean we all…I think it’s a collective group, you know, we all have to help each other, we have to help our bigs, our bigs have to help us and we know we’re not the biggest team in the NBA but that doesn’t define anything,” said James. “It’s about the heart and desire to win and we have that.”

An effective interviewer usually finds a way to get the pertinent information out of their subject. Unfortunately, the series of closed-ended questions did not reveal much of James’ personality that was previously unknown.

On the players at each position he would choose for the biggest game of his life: “Aw, if it’s the biggest game of my life all of my teammates that’s with the Heat…Those are the guys that I’ve been with. We’ve been through everything we’ve seen it all and there’s nothing that you can show us that we haven’t seen before. If it’s the biggest game of my life, I want those guys out on the floor.”

On the toughest guy he’s ever defended: “I mean I don’t’ know. There’s great point guards there’s great shooting guards, small forwards, power forwards and centers and I’ve guarded every position, so there’s always a challenge when you’re guarding someone smaller than you but faster or bigger than you, stronger…but you have to take the challenge and I’ve always looked forward to it.”

On what he would consider his most cherished individual award: “I don’t know because I don’t really get too involved in individual accolades, honestly. When they happen I’m very humbled by it and I put a lot of hard work into my individual game but I don’t know. I really want the Defensive Player of the Year, that’s what I want, if I can obtain that award that would be the one I most cherish.”

Henson told James that the country will host its first ever preseason game this October, but the four-time league MVP beat him to the punch.

“Yeah, I heard, I heard. Houston and Indiana, right? That’s pretty cool.”

The longtime reporter then asked James if he’d be in favor of the Heat someday participating in a game there.

“Well, I mean it would be great but that’s not my choice, honestly…It’s not my decision if we come over here or not to play a regular season or preseason game but it would be great though.”

In the Philippines’ professional basketball league the game is played more or less below the rim. James’ game, as refined as it’s become, is not.

Henson posed the question did James understand that he jumps so high his head almost touches the rim when he dunks?

“(Laughs) Yeah, sometimes I do. No, I don’t know. I just…sometimes the ball carries me higher, and then sometimes the crowd and excitement of the game carries me higher too, so I’m blessed to have the ability to go catch the ball out of this range and of that nature, but I have to protect myself at times and make sure I don’t hit my head on the rim.”

For his last question, Henson decided to test the allegiance of James. He asked him which championship meant more to him, the NBA titles won with the Heat or the Olympic Gold Medals bagged with Team USA in 2008 and 2012.

“They both are important. I can’t just single one out better than the other. I think to be a part of the United States of America team, to be able to represent your country, it’s the ultimate. I’ve always respected that and going out there and trying to win a Gold Medal for our country means a lot and also playing for the Heat and winning two championships that’s very important to me as well. To be able to go out there and win a championship for our fans, our Arena people who work for us, teammates, coaching staff and so on and so on…they both are hand in hand.”

For the record, let’s run down the highlights and lowlights of the interview.

Henson was given a rare opportunity to sit down with the man widely considered to be the best basketball player on the planet. Lucky for him, he deserved the honor.

The first thing we found out was that James and FilAm Erik Spoelstra interact well, to the point where they feel comfortable enough to discuss strategy and go over game-planning. That was solid. I could have heard more, but I’m not sure James would even be in the Philippines at the current time were it not for “Coach Spo” and the immediate connection to his mother’s homeland (Laguna).

Henson failed to take into account they had made the NBA Finals for three consecutive seasons, all without a true center. (From Gameplan)