Basketball: King James in fiery form as he condemns NFL's 'slave mentality', dismisses accusations of tampering

LOS ANGELES • Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James scoffed at the notion he was violating National Basketball Association (NBA) rules when he told reporters it would be “amazing” to play alongside Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans.

Davis has been the subject of trade rumours recently, and Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry told reporters on Friday morning that he believed James’ comments should count as “tampering” – defined by the NBA as attempting to entice a player under contract to negotiate with another team regarding his services.

“I thought if you talk about a player under contract, it was tampering. But that’s just me,” Gentry said. “I’ve only been in the league 31 years. What do I know?”

The coach appeared to walk back that opinion later on Friday, as the Pelicans prepared to take on the Lakers at Staples Centre, acknowledging that it would be hard for James not to respond if he was asked the question by reporters.

After the Lakers’ 112-104 NBA victory, James made it clear just how silly he thought any tampering accusation was.

“Ask me, ‘Would I like to play with Kevin Durant?’ Ask me right now,” he asked a reporter in the locker room. She did not have time to get the whole question out before James blurted out: “Absolutely! Ask me if I’d like to play with Jimmy Butler. Say it right now.

“Ask me about Kyrie Irving. Giannis (Antetokounmpo). Ask me about (Joel) Embiid. Ben Simmons. Go ahead, all of them.

“Come on guys, it’s not rocket science… I would love to play with a lot of great players. That’s just who I am… And I play by the rules.”

James was also in the spotlight when he offered a scathing take on National Football League (NFL) team owners on the latest episode of his HBO show The Shop which aired on Friday, saying the gridiron league is run by “old white men” with a “slave mentality”.

He was chatting with his business partner Maverick Carter, Los Angeles Rams star Todd Gurley and actor/rapper Ice Cube about NFL player protests over social injustice.

Gurley noted it was a “touchy subject,” but James, who has not been shy to take on political and social issues, criticised NFL owners for wanting to “control” players.

He went on to praise NBA commissioner Adam Silver for his support of players who use their platform to speak out on social issues.

“In the NFL, they got a bunch of old white men owning teams and they got that slave mentality,” James said, adding that Silver “doesn’t mind us having a real feeling and be able to express that”.

“It doesn’t even matter if Adam agrees with what we are saying, he at least wants to hear us out.”

The NFL has not been able to shake the controversy that erupted after former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the pre-game national anthem to protest social and racial injustice.

Kaepernick, without a job in the league, alleged he has been blacklisted over his protests.

Back on the court on Friday night, James shook off flu-like symptoms to post his third triple-double of the season.

The forward, who missed the morning shoot-around, registered 22 points, 14 assists and 12 rebounds as the Lakers (19-13) got their sixth straight home win.

Davis scored 30 points and grabbed 20 rebounds for the Pelicans (15-18), who lost their third straight game.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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