LeBron James has spent the past decade as arguably the most polarizing, scrutinized and criticized athlete in the world. The Miami Heat star forward and four-time league MVP has learned to adjust and thrive under the intense spotlight throughout his career.
But not even James could imagine what it would be like to work under the global spotlight and walk in the footsteps of the president of the United States. James wouldn't mind playing a game of one-on-one with President Barack Obama on the White House basketball court. But just don’t ask James to sub for Obama in the Oval Office.
“It’s a tough job,” James said Monday. “Obviously, I don’t know the ins and outs about it, the daily regimen. But I wouldn't want to have those shoes. That’s why it’s always important who we vote for, getting the right guy to lead our country, because there are so many things we have to do.”
If any sort of presidency is in James’ future after his playing days are done, it’ll be as the chief executive of a major sports franchise or marketing firm. Politics never have been his thing. That’s why when the Heat make their second trip to the White House in as many seasons on Tuesday to commemorate their second consecutive NBA championship from the 2012-13 season, James will again enter the most powerful building in the world with a full appreciation of how difficult a task it is to be president.
Even with all of the attention and criticism that comes with being LeBron James, it’s relatively peanuts compared with the public demands of being the nation’s commander in chief.
“It doesn’t compare -- absolutely not,” James said. “Because he doesn’t just have to worry about Americans ... his finger, he presses the button on so many issues in the world -- not just America. We know how many people we have in America. But how many people are in the world?”
When the Heat made their trip to the White House last year, a giddy and slightly nervous James walked to the podium beside Obama and declared, “Mama, I made it.” This time around, James plans to play it cool, take in the sights and enjoy the highlight of four consecutive days off the team will have had before Wednesday’s game against the Washington Wizards.
Heat guard Dwyane Wade has visited the White House three times as a champion and has met with Obama numerous other times during fundraisers and social initiatives. Wade said being around the president never gets old, although he was surprised by how small and cozy the Oval Office is in reality.
“On TV, it looks huge,” Wade said. “And then you get in there, you’re like, ‘This is where all of that magic goes down?’ Our president is a very personable guy. He loves the sport we play. You always look forward to that moment when he comes around the circle, goes around and says something to everybody. It’s a cool moment. You get to relax and be yourself.”
There are some who might want to test the limit of relaxation during Tuesday’s visit.
“[Let’s] go in the Oval Office, see some top-secret stuff or something,” center Chris Bosh said of how comfortable the Heat are beginning to feel with these annual championship trips to Washington. “We can just skip all that [formal] stuff, and just go hang out. Just the fact that [Obama] loves basketball. He’s a Bulls fan. I give him that, because he’s from Chicago. Nobody’s perfect. But the fact that he knows who we are, and he watches the game and follows the game closely, it’s pretty cool.”
James, whose team is just 5-4 in its past nine games amid a stretch in which the Heat play 11 of 14 on the road, did have an idea of what his first executive order would be if he were president for a day.
“I’d give the Miami Heat a week off from playing basketball games,” James cracked.
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