During a 48-hour span in the American northeast, the benefits and pitfalls of being LeBron James were on display in different arenas.
He took a trip to Springfield, Mass., where his son was playing in a high school basketball game hours before the Lakers played in Boston, only for the game to be momentarily stopped when a fan threw something at his son. A day later, James visited a YMCA gym in Harlem filled with about 50 teenagers who couldn’t believe their luck when he walked into the room to chat with them about a bike-share initiative between the rideshare app Lyft and his media company Uninterrupted.
“It’s chilling, honestly,” James said. “It’s … guys use the word ‘humbling’ a lot, but it is humbling to know I can be able to go in other cities and be able to make an impact on kids’ lives. They’re the future.”
The teenagers in attendance Tuesday were each given a yearlong subscription to New York bike share system Citi Bike. A professional BMX biker spoke to them first, followed by John Zimmer, the co-founder of Lyft, and Sharon Greenberger, the president and chief executive of YMCA of Greater New York.
A video then played about the importance of bikes for kids, and at the end was a written message that Lyft and James were partnering to help them. The kids began to stir, wondering if James would be visiting them.
“Absolutely no way!” one said as he looked toward the door that James eventually came through. When James walked in, they started cheering and stomping their feet.
The bike theme was personal to James. The I Promise School, a public school in Akron that James’ foundation helped open and helps fund, includes bikes for all the students so they can get to school every day.
“Having bikes and being able to travel on bikes as a kid with my friends, it was something we did every single day,” James said after the event. “We rode ‘em to school, we rode ‘em to basketball practices, football practices, we just traveled around the city, just getting a breath of fresh air and being able to clear our minds.”
James was in New York because the Lakers will play on back-to-back nights against the Knicks and Nets on Wednesday and Thursday. The Lakers flew from Boston on Monday night after losing to the Celtics.
Monday proved to be a hectic day for him, too.
With son Bronny playing in Springfield for Chatsworth Sierra Canyon, James made the 90-minute trip (no, not in a helicopter as was reported).
“I didn’t mind going down to Springfield to check the game out,” James said. “Only bad thing about today is I took two Ls. The James gang took two Ls today, but there are always better days.”
What he did mind was the treatment Bronny received during Sierra Canyon’s loss in the HoopHall Classic to Fairfax (Va.) Paul VI. During the game, a fan threw something at Bronny, who was preparing to inbound the ball along the sideline. The referee stopped the game to eject the fan.
James did not realize why the game had been stopped, but was shown a video after returning to Boston.
“It’s just disrespectful,” James said. “And I mean it was just a little kid, too. I don’t know how old that little kid was. So, I don’t know if he learned it on his own, learned it at home or whatever the case may be, but it’s just disrespectful.”
Other players on Sierra Canyon told reporters at the game that Bronny takes a lot of taunting from opposing fans. James acknowledged that was true, but said his 15-year-old son doesn’t talk to him about it.
James called Bronny “cool, calm — he’s better than his mom and dad, let’s just say that.”
“He is. He’s better than his mom and dad for some of the things that he kind of lets off his shoulder. I guess he’s kind of taking that from me too because I’ve let a lot of [stuff] go. He’s a great kid and most importantly he just loves being around his teammates. … But that [stuff] earlier made me mad when I saw that; it was disrespectful.”
Sierra Canyon played at 1 p.m. and James said goodbye to his son before leaving for Boston. James returned before the team arrived at the TD Garden to prepare for the 7:30 p.m. game.
James was asked if he had any concerns about making it back in time. He did, but said there are things more important than his game-day routine.
“I’d break every routine in my life for my family,” James said. “Listen, if the gods is with me, they’re going to make sure I get back safe, but my routine was broke today, but I could care less ... this right here is all secondary when it comes to my family, so it doesn’t matter.”
AT NEW YORK
When: 4 p.m. PST, Wednesday
On the air: TV: Spectrum SportsNet; Radio: 710, 1330.
Update: The Lakers (34-9) defeated the Knicks 117-87 on Jan. 7 at Staples Center. New York (12-32) snapped a five-game losing streak Jan. 12 with a 124-121 victory over visiting Miami. Anthony Davis (bruised glute) and Rajon Rondo (finger) are listed on the injury report as probable after each played against Boston, while Knicks guard Dennis Smith Jr. (oblique) and Marcus Morris (ankle) are questionable.