At halftime of the NBA All-Star game, LeBron James did a little negotiating on behalf of the rest of Team LeBron.
As Team LeBron coach Mike Malone recalls it, James asked whether the team could go to the court at halftime to watch rapper J. Cole perform instead of having a traditional halftime meeting. With Team LeBron trailing by 13 points, Malone said yes, with a condition for the whole team.
“If you promise to get your [butt] back in transition,” Malone told the Lakers forward.
James relayed the message and they left to watch the end of the concert. They didn’t fix what ailed them right away, but by the end of the third quarter, Team LeBron had taken control of the game. They beat Team Giannis 178-164 and James finished with 19 points, four assists, eight rebounds and two blocked shots.
Now the real work begins.
“Looking forward to the second half of the season,” James said. “Looking forward to seeing what we can do to get back in this playoff race. That’s my only mind-set. That’s the only thing that’s going to happen in my mental space for these next two months, pretty much on how I can get this team playing the type of level of basketball we were playing before my injury.”
Heading into an All-Star weekend in the city where Michael Jordan owns the basketball team, James was asked about his ambition to own an NBA team.
“It would have to be the right fit,” James said. “It’d have to be the right city. It’d have to be the right situation. It’s not like it’s a dream of mine. It’s more of an aspiration. See if it happens. If it don’t, I won’t be disappointed in anything I’ve done off the floor. We’ll see what happens. I got a lot more game to play. I got a lot. A ton more years to play this game and suit up and be in a Lakers uniform.”
As he often does in games that count, James took a few minutes to warm up. But in the second quarter, James scored eight points, three of them dunks in the five minutes before halftime.
“It’s an All-Star game but he’s getting loose and trying to put on a show,” said Team LeBron guard Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors. “He has a lot of responsibilities as far as fandom on his shoulders and driving the game to new heights. To see him be a leader and take pride in that is motivating for us to be the best we can be.”
James rushed to the postgame podium. The faster he got there, the faster he could leave and take advantage of his dwindling time before the next phase of the season.
“You put me on the floor, I love to compete,” James said. “I’m a competitor, no matter what it is. I was competing to see if I can get to this table first. Did anybody come here before me?”