LeBron James is one win away from his first NBA championship in a post-season where he has taken up a curious habit: reading. LeBron has been working his way through “The Hunger Games”, “Shogun”, “West by West” (Jerry West’s autobiography), “The Fighter’s Mind”, and “The Tipping Point”, which Malcom Gladwell should get a kick out of. The popular author is a sports fan and sometimes trades entertaining e-mails with ESPN’s Bill Simmons. Most of those book recommendations came from the advice of LeBron’s friend and confidante, Maverick Carter.
“Reading has kind of helped me get away from the game a little bit,” said James. “It’s the first time I really done it. I haven’t read this much, probably since I was in high school.” So it seems it is back to school for the 3-time MVP.
“You can get too wired before a game,” an anonymous friend of James said, “and this definitely helps him drain that, helps him avoid the anxiety of the playoffs.”
The story could be viewed as ironic that a man who skipped college wins his first championship the year he starts reading regularly, but I choose to see it as something else. It is the evolution of a superstar born in the instant communication era; he turns to a medium that is slower than twitter, television, and Sport Center. He can take things at his speed with a book and can control the pace, just as he can control the pace on the basketball court. Is there correlation there for James? Who knows. But the results on the court have been a focused LeBron James during the course of these playoffs, and some of the highest quality basketball we have seen in some time. LeBron even mentioned pace as it pertains to how the books affect him mentally.
“It just slows my mind down. It gives me another outlet. Throughout the playoffs, all you think about is basketball. All you want to do is play basketball. But at the same time it can become a lot. It can [get] to a point where it’s overloading to the mind, and you think about it too much. It’s hard to get away from it because you’re playing every other day, you talk about it every single day, you prepare every single day. So the reading has given me an opportunity to, just for those couple hours of the day or those 20 minutes, 25 minutes before the game, an opportunity just to read and think about something else and get a sense of what else is going on besides the game of basketball. It’s made me comfortable. I’m not saying it’s the trick. It’s just something that I decided to do at the beginning of the postseason, and it’s worked for me.”
Michael Wilbon’s wrote an excellent article about LeBron’s reading. He made a compelling point about how many 13 and 14 year olds will pick up a book now, because of the Miami Heat forward. Wilbon also claims that LeBron turning his locker stall into a library “is related to his performance on the court, trust me.”
If that is so, and LeBron keeps slowing down and focusing the more he reads, then I can’t wait to find out what is on LeBron’s reading list next June.