NBA champion and recent All-Star Game dynamo, LeBron James, graces the March cover of GQ with images handled by Terry Richardson. Discussing a number of topics that have contributed to his success, as well as “The Decision,” the editorial reveals a complex individual who pines to win but uses various stumbling blocks as an instance to grow as both a person and a basketball player. While a choice excerpt of the cover story appears below, head over to GQ to read the entire piece.
He’s ten years into this insane career. Probably ten more to go with the NBA, he figures. So it’s about halftime. It’s something to think about. “My drive to be the greatest basketball player ever is very high.” Everything right now is fantastic. A Miami mansion, a beautiful wife and two sons. Cars. More money than any other American athlete besides Floyd Mayweather, God love him. Sportswriters are having orgasms: The King is going for a three-peat with the Miami Heat, he has won four of the past five NBA MVP awards, his right arm is as fast as a helicopter blade, and he could notch a triple-double every night if he wanted.
Controlled exceptionalism, the most gifted ever? The game seems so easy he’s left challenging only his own efficiency. They say he’s Michael Jordan for a new generation. Or maybe they’ll say Michael Jordan was the LeBron James of his generation, same difference, history will not bother splitting hairs. “Dr. J couldn’t do what he does. Magic couldn’t do what he does,” says Heat president Pat Riley.
Being excellent at absolutely everything like this, it carries responsibility. Off the court, on the court, it weighs on him. All those people wanting more points out of him. They pay to see a superhero, and the superhero should shoot the ball, create lanes into which he can explode into everlasting glory, like Baryshnikov performing consecutive grands jetès, like Pavarotti achieving nine effortless high C’s in one aria. (Seventeen curtain calls for that one.) People who pay to see history being made expect history to be made.
“Like, I could average thirty-five points a game if I really wanted to,” he says. He is beautifully handsome, solid and smooth as a sycamore. “But then—it wouldn’t be me,” he says. “So I don’t know if I could do it, because of my instincts. I see a teammate open—even if I have a great shot—I see a teammate open for a better shot, I gotta feed him. It’s like, my mind sometimes be like ‘Shoot it,’ but then—my instincts, you know?”
He is thoughtful. He is a man who chews on ideas this way and that, enjoys the texture. The battle between predisposition and will. It’s something to think about. “This thing is about more than just basketball,” he says. “I can play basketball with my eyes closed and my hands tied behind my back. The way my mind, my mind starts working, we could probably be here for like…it could be like midnight. Someone will have to turn my switch off.”
One of the things that bothers him is when people say, “You’ve changed.” First of all, he hasn’t. He still has his instincts. He still has Akron sitting in him like a bag of cement.