He is called the ‘Chosen One’ and is perhaps the Harry Potter of NBA. Fame and reputation preceded him, as he was the first draft pick in 2003. He had already signed a $90 million deal with Nike before making his professional debut. He is LeBron James. The debate about him being the greatest basketball player of his time — even ahead of Kobe Bryant — is growing with each passing day. Hindustan Times caught up with him and here's what he had to say. Excerpts:
You have played in the All Star several times. What makes this event so special?
It is very special for every All Star player. Being part of this night puts you in an elite group. You feel your efforts during the season have been rewarded and it improves your game as well.
The All Star weekend is considered one big party with fun events thrown in for good measure. Do players too take the games as exhibition matches?
I don't think so. I am sure it's an entertaining three days for the fans but for me, the match is as competitive as the NBA finals. You have the best in the world coming here and I am sure none of them shows any complacency. The debate about either you or Kobe Bryant being the greatest is growing.
Do such comparisons bother you?
I really don't bother about such comparisons. I play my game and Kobe plays his. There is no doubt that he is a great player with multiple championships. For me, I still need that championship ring and I am just working to achieve that goal.
The US team was pretty disappointed when it had to settle for bronze at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. But at Beijing, you bagged gold. How different was it from 2004?
I was part of the team in 2004 and we were very disappointed after the loss in Athens. We were aiming for gold but sadly we had to settle for bronze. In 2008, we rectified our mistakes and were a formidable unit once again.
The NBA is expanding into a truly global entity. They have also announced plans to take the game to India. Your thoughts…
I think NBA has truly brought down the regional barriers in the last decade or so. I think post-Jordan NBA has become a global brand. Though I haven't been to India, I think, with the large population base, the country should be having enough talent. They need to be provided the right motivation and, may be, one day someone would play in the NBA.