In addition to being one of the greatest athletes in modern history, LeBron James is among the biggest sports fans around too. The Los Angeles Lakers star is apt to appear at big events from the World Series to the College Football Playoff — in addition to eight straight NBA Finals.
Saturday was no different as James had a day off before playing the Philadelphia 76ers and traveled to Charlottesville, Virginia, to see the No. 2 Duke Blue Devils take down the No. 3 Virginia Cavaliers, 81-71.
James was quickly spotted, seated under one of the baskets next to teammate Rajon Rondo, which immediately caused the takes to fly. Was he there to recruit human highlight reel Zion Williamson? Was he there to support his Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski? Or is he just a big basketball geek, and this is another check off the bucket list?
Williamson was surely on James’ mind because there have been plenty of matchups with top-5 teams that he hasn’t gone out of his way to visit. But few have had Williamson, the most hyped NBA prospect since perhaps Anthony Davis or even James himself.
Zion later showed off his defensive prowess in the second half with a monstrous block, his third of the game, although it again came on the wrong side of the court for James.
Was this another recruiting trip for LeBron?
The Lakers have been trying to add a second star for James to play with for a while, but they’ve failed to land Kawhi Leonard or Davis (yet). James’ agency Klutch Sports has been pushing hard for the New Orleans Pelicans to trade Davis to the Lakers, but nothing came of it.
In the mean time, James got to pick his All-Star team in the first televised draft, and *somehow* he ended up with just about every major pending free agent this side of Kemba Walker. The strategy to recruit at least one of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Leonard or Davis to the Lakers was not lost on many, including the other captain, Giannis Antetokounmpo, who jokingly said, “Isn’t that tampering?”
Unfortunately for James, though, there’s no realistic way for the Lakers to land Williamson, unless they miss the playoffs and get exceedingly lucky. However, even the recently flattened lottery odds won’t help the Lakers much since they currently have the 12th-worst record and wouldn’t even get a 5 percent chance at winning the lottery until they had the 8th-worst record, which they are five wins ahead of.
Furthermore, no team that lands the No. 1 pick will trade Williamson to the Lakers, even for their rumored package of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, four draft picks and salary relief. Zion would only be on the move for an established superstar like Davis.
LeBron’s relationship with Duke
The much more probable answer is that LeBron is excited to see Duke and Williamson play. He has a lengthy relationship with Coach K going back to at least 2006 with Team USA.
If there is any recruiting going on, it likely had to do with James’ oldest son, Bronny Jr. The rising star will be in the Class of 2023, and LeBron has already said that he hopes Krzyzewski is still at Duke when his son heads to college.
James is busy enough trying to build a championship contender in L.A.; maybe it’s just nice to be doted on for a while.
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