LeBron Shines on “60 Minutes,” At Least in the First Person

LeBron James got the Steve Kroft treatment on CBS’ “60 Minutes” last night - and sailed through it as smoothly as he did the  Dallas Mavericks’ defense Sunday afternoon.

Here are the three reasons why I think  LeBron nailed it like a wide-open jumper… and the one time he dribbled it off his foot:

  • He showed humility:  ”I think team first,” he said.  ”I’m always thinking about how I can help my teammates get better.”  And when Kroft asked why he had never gotten in trouble, despite growing up in some of Akron’s toughest neighborhoods, James went with always reliable God and mom combo:  ”The man above and my mother just led me in the right direction, ”  James said, adding that his mom “gets all the credit in the world for making me the man who I am today.”
  • He showed personality:  James frequently flashed his high-wattage smile…and even sank an underhanded 60-foot shot in his old high school gym – on the first take.
  • He showed depth:  ”You can’t be afraid to fail,” he told Kroft.  ”That’s the only way you’re going to get better.  You have to be able to accept failure to get better.”  James made it clear his ultimate goal is an NBA title.  Kroft referred to him as smart, well-grounded, loyal….and on his way to possibly becoming sports’ first billion dollar brand.

It’s true that Kroft went  easier on James than most of his subjects, but it’s still “60 Minutes” and James could have stumbled by boasting about his wealth in the middle of a recession or by coming across as brash and immature. He is, after all, only 24.

But in my view, LeBron committed  only one turnover:  It may seem minor, but it’s the athlete interview equivalent of nails on the chalkboard:   the dreaded third-person reference.  When Kroft asked him where in Akron he grew up, LeBron responded:  ”Every part of town has seen a little bit of LeBron growing up.”

And this irritating little bobble reminded me of a hilarious Sports Illustrated column from July 2005 by the great Steve Rushin (we miss you, Steve) on the subject of third-person references entitled, “There is No “I” in Steve.” In it, Rushin even blows the whistle on Alonzo Mourning for finding a way to speak in the ninth person, or “third person cubed.”  It’s a great read.