The NBA superstar talks to Bloomberg Businessweek Editor Joel Weber about the league’s evolution, his business portfolio, and preparing for life after basketball
You’re a 12-time NBA All-Star, three-time NBA champ, 20,000 career points, 4,000 rebounds. What did I miss?
A lot. I’ve got 22,000 points now. An Olympic gold medal. And a bronze.
I don’t really talk about that.
What are the things that you still think you want to cross off?
From a basketball standpoint? I’m way past where I wanted to go. I just wanted to play in the NBA, and I got a chance to do that. And from there, everything else has definitely been the cherry on top of my career. I couldn’t have written it any better than it’s been, so I’m cool. When you think back on your 15 years in the NBA, how has the league changed?
First of all, David Stern, our last commissioner, did an amazing job of helping us grow our game, saying “OK, we need a face-lift, and let’s do this differently.” He made our game global to where, in China and other countries, it’s so big. The NBA wasn’t one of the top leagues. It was definitely looked at as a very thuggish league, you know. They used to fight back in the day a lot, a lot of real grown-man fights. And that was one of the things that David Stern cleaned up—getting the players out, getting us involved in the community, building the brand.
He changed that. Once you hit somebody you’re going to lose all your money. The guys started dressing differently. He helped the new players coming in to start thinking of the NBA as more of a business. It really changed the mindset.
The NBA finals this year, between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers, was over in a blink. Did you watch?
I did. A full-on sweep in the finals ain’t really what we want as fans watching the game. Everybody was hoping that Cleveland would get a game or two. But a lot of people really believed it was going to be Golden State. Those guys are so dominant right now. They’re very, very, good. Like, real good. Like, three-championships-in-four-years good.
You’ve played against some great teams. How do they compare?
The greatest team I’ve ever played against was probably the San Antonio Spurs, with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili. They challenged you in so many ways with the mental part of the game. It goes way beyond basketball. Golden State does that. They challenge you mentally as well as physically. And they have more talent than everybody, as well. It’s going to take some special kind of medicine to put a team together to get them.
Do you need a dynasty now to win an NBA championship ring?
Right now you do. I raise my hand as a part of the problem. When the Miami Heat decided to bring the big three together—myself, LeBron James, Chris Bosh—in 2009, the game changed. Players understand their power. I don’t see that slowing down. I see the next generation—my son’s generation—getting even tighter.
You said it’s a problem.
For other teams that ain’t winning. It’s not a problem for Golden State. It wasn’t a problem for the Miami Heat when we went to four championships in a row. It’s a problem for everyone else when they’re not doing it.
Do you guys talk to each other about breaking up a dynasty like that?
Nobody’s calling me at 36, like, “Yo, we need you to come lay down this dynasty.” But obviously you want to take down the champs, right? People who watch the sport can’t wait to see what’s going to happen this summer in free agency, because you want to see a team put together that can compete against a team like that. I’m watching. I’m a fan. I want to see a big splash this summer. I would love to see some guys team up. Our game has grown. When people say Golden State is hurting our game, that’s untrue. Our game is so high right now. It’s so great, but we would like to see somebody else get an opportunity. How do coaches fit into all of this now?
Do you think Steve Kerr of the Warriors could run for president?
Yeah. I’d vote for him. I like him.
What coaches in the league are underrated?
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