#WitnessHistory: Exclusive 1-on-1 with LeBron James

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By: Mico Halili

It’s always the conundrum. You’re set to converse with LeBron James somewhere inside the Shangri-La Hotel in Makati. He’s the best player on the planet, someone who has had to answer all kinds of questions from all kinds of inquisitors, and you’re stuck with a dilemma.

Okay, he’s here in Manila for the Nike Witness History Tour. He sits there just a couple of feet away close enough so you can see him in the highest form of definition possible. He’s right there. You’re thinking, “Relax, it’s just LeBron James.” You’re also thinking, “How can I relax? It’s LeBron James!” His forearms rest on his thighs. He looks at you and waits for the interview to begin. You shake his hand and sense this mixture of jetlag, attentiveness, wonderment and confidence. The dilemma: what on earth should you ask?

I don’t think we can all agree on some universal form of inquiry. We all have questions we want to ask. Everyone wants to know everything about LeBron James. In the minutes allotted for this conversation, I realize I can’t ask everything. But I can ask for hints that could unlock the other curiosities we have about this man. I decide not to focus on questions. Instead, I focus on concepts that help fuel LeBron’s success: motivation, sacrifice, simplicity, inspiration, character and greatness.

SLAM PH: Winners have to be a little obsessed with something. That’s how they improve. That’s how they become better than everyone else. What are you a little obsessed with?

LeBron James: Winning. That’s all I care about. I do whatever it takes to win. At any cost.

SLAM PH: What’s the hardest part of your job as an NBA player?

LBJ: The hard part of our job is being away from our families. You’re on the road a lot. Your schedules are very hectic so you’re away from your family a lot. That’s really hard.

SLAM PH: I believe you’re the type of individual who also likes the simple joys in life. That it’s not all about extravagance. Surely, little things can also brighten your day. What are your simple joys?

LBJ: My simple joy, man, is just seeing my family smile. Or when I see my friends joking and laughing. If I got my friends and my family and they’re all smiling and they’re happy, that’s all that matters to me.

SLAM PH: Achievers sometimes gain inspiration from other achievers in other fields. We know you’re familiar with other fields of expertise like music, business, or entertainment and fashion. Do you get inspiration from other achievers in other fields?

LBJ: Uhm, no. I do not. I actually don’t. I don’t gain any inspiration from no other individual. I watch a lot of individuals. What a lot of other individuals do is amazing. But my inspiration comes from my upbringing in my hometown. My inspiration comes from my friends and my family and the people around me. That’s where my inspiration comes from.

SLAM PH: What’s the difference between the LeBron James, the one who likes to spend time in his hometown, maybe this is the LeBron people rarely see, and the LeBron James people see on television all the time?

LBJ: It’s not different. When I’m home, I’m at peace. I always spend my off-seasons in my hometown. My hometown raised me. It molded me into who I am today. What you see right now, it’s because of my hometown. But it’s no different from the person you see in Miami or the one that you see here in the Philippines. I always know that my hometown is the reason why I’m here today.

SLAM PH: How do you define greatness?

LBJ: I don’t know. I don’t know. I have no idea how to define that. I guess it’s somebody that puts a lot of work into what they do and no matter what goes on, no matter what’s happening in that point in time, they can overcome anything. There are going to be hardships, there are going to be bumps and bruises throughout that process, but it’s how they come back from those moments that define them. And every single time, they’re always going to be there for a teammate – win, lose or draw. This is not just in sports, but also in life, in music, in business, in everything. I don’t know the perfect definition for how you define greatness but I think that’s one of them. MH

Photo c/o Paul Ryan Tan, Edited by Hael Pinat