You can argue whether Charlotte is Michael Jordan’s town, or Steph’s town, or Kemba’s town, during this NBA All-Star Weekend.
But there’s no doubt that the entire city is located inside LeBron’s world.
The biggest current star in basketball is LeBron James, who held court at All-Star media day Saturday like the hoops king that he is. Sometimes, he sounded as carefully calibrated as a political candidate. Other times he sounded as gleefully spontaneous as that 18-year-old who entered the NBA in 2003 straight out of high school.
In his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers, James, now 34, has missed 18 games with a groin injury. But he will start for and captain “Team LeBron” in Sunday’s All-Star Game at the Spectrum Center.
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LeBron’s Lakers (28-29) currently rank 10th in the NBA’s Western Conference and would miss the playoffs if they started today. LeBron will likely use this trip partly as a recruiting tool, as he stuffed his team’s All-Star roster with players who may be available via trade or free agency by this summer.
James didn’t address that subject during the 20 minutes he spent at the center of a horde of media members on Saturday. But he did opine on subjects ranging from Colin Kaepernick to Zion Williamson and from Kyrie Irving to potential NBA team ownership. He also found time to tell a Chinese reporter “hello” in Mandarin; repeatedly gave shout-outs to the public elementary school he opened this school year for 240 at-risk kids in his hometown of Akron, Ohio; and declared Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski “the greatest coach of all time.”
A Saturday sampling of LeBron:
On Colin Kaepernick, who ended his collusion case against the NFL Friday when the league paid the former San Francisco quarterback an undisclosed sum to settle the case: “I stand with Kap. I kneel with Kap…. Nobody ever really wanted to actually understand where he was coming from. And you know I think that anybody who will sacrifice their livelihood for the betterment of all of us, I can respect that…
“You’ve got a guy who basically lost his job because he wanted to stand for something that was more than just him. So I’m happy to see the news that came out yesterday that he won his suit. I hope it’s a hell of a lot of money that can not only set him up, but set his family up, set his grandkids up, for the rest of their lives. And I hope that the word of what he did will live on throughout American history (and) world history.”
On Duke star freshman Zion Williamson, who at 6-foot-7 and 285 pounds and is sometimes compared to LeBron (6-8 and officially 250, although ESPN’s Brian Windhorst recently reported LeBron is thought to weigh closer to 280): “The comparisons of me to Zion or Zion to me - I think it’s great for the game. With his athleticism, well, we all see. His ability to jump well beyond the 10-foot rim is incredible. What’s also incredible is his size, his speed, his agility, his quickness, and to add on to that, he’s just a great kid.
“Every time the media has asked him questions he’s always been right on and very humble about it. He’s humble about the fact he gets to play the game that he loves every single day. ...I’ve never met the kid, but I love everything about him, and he keeps the main thing the main thing, and that’s the game of basketball.”
On Charlotte hosting the All-Star Game: “I think it’s great for the city of Charlotte. With MJ (Michael Jordan) being the owner of the franchise here, being able to host the All-Star Game - this is the biggest weekend for the NBA. ...I know the people of Charlotte are very appreciative of this moment and I’m happy to be here.”
On Kyrie Irving calling him in January to apologize for not behaving better when the two were teammates: “I’ve always loved Kyrie, from before I met him, to when I became his teammate, to even now. ...The phone call, more than for me, just to see his growth. It takes a real man ... to understand who they are, and be able to… see their wrongdoings.”
On one day potentially owning an NBA team, as Jordan does with the Hornets: “It’s not that it’s intoxicating to me and I don’t think about it on a day-to-day basis. ...It’d have to be the right fit, the right city, the right situation.
“It’s not like it’s a dream of mine, it’s more of an aspiration to see if it happens. ...We’ll see what happens. I got a lot more game to play. I got a ton more years to suit up and be in a Lakers uniform. ...Hopefully I’ll fully answer questions as a player for a long time.”
Scott Fowler: 704-358-5140, @scott_fowler