Rachel Nichols from ESPN’s The Jump joins Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck to share a behind-the-scenes look at her recent sit-down with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. She also breaks down NBA player empowerment, the hype surrounding Lonzo Ball, players as active citizens as well as halftime entertainer Red Panda.
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On what we didn’t see during the Wade-James interview
I really could’ve shown another 15 minutes of them kind of ripping on each other.
They got into this extended debate in our interview of who was peanut butter and who was jelly. And as Dwyane Wade pointed out: Peanut butter’s consistent; peanut butter don’t miss games. So that was his argument of LeBron being peanut butter.
On James/Wade forging a friendship
You lose the way they lost in those first Finals against Dallas and they took their first vacation—their first of these famous vacations was right after those Finals—their wives basically rented a house and threw these boys together and said, “You work this out because we don’t want to deal with you all summer being miserable.”
And they said that they just sat around the table for the first day just depressed, they wouldn’t go outside, they wouldn’t do anything. If you let a friend—especially if you’re a proud athlete—and you let a friend see you that upset and that broken, and your confidence that shaken, and who are as a player and what you need to be…I think that makes you friends in a way you haven’t been before.
On why we see more friendships these days among NBA rivals
Players can be more socially outspoken now because they have more security and more ownership of their own careers. … Players can be more loyal to each other and have these friendships with each other as opposed to being categorized within a certain team and organization that we saw before because they have more ownership over themselves.
On why the NBA hasn’t had to deal with national anthem controversies
I think, first of all, they have been more activists and more outspoken, so it’s not as if the anthem is their shot. The NBA has been really great, I think, about not only letting players make statements but encouraging players to be active citizens.
I think the NBA has supported their players wanting to make this a better country for more people, and I think having that forum has allowed NBA players to be more expressive on issues like racism or civil rights or homophobia or so many of the other things that cross sports in terms of our social issues.
And then I think the second thing is that NBA players are very aware of what’s going on, and frankly, the anthem issue in this country has been hijacked. There’s just no question—you can’t argue with the facts that Colin Kaepernick started for sitting and then kneeling during the anthem about one thing, and then discussion has moved into a completely separate arena.
The NBA players I have talked to have said, “Hey, I don’t want to be anyone’s pawn in that second arena.”
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