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LeBron James says NCAA is ‘corrupt,’ kids getting paid not new

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James against the Memphis

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James against the Memphis Grizzlies on Feb. 23, 2018. Credit: AP / Brandon Dill

CLEVELAND — “King James,” as in LeBron James, gave what amounted to his “State of the Land” news conference following the Cavaliers’ shootaround Tuesday morning before facing the Nets at Quicken Loans Arena. James saved his most powerful remarks for the “corrupt NCAA,” regarding recent college basketball recruiting scandals, and he heaped praise on the social impact of the movie “Black Panther.”

As an aside, James admitted the effort of a Philadelphia fan to fund local billboards recruiting him as a free agent was “flattering.”

James first experienced recruiting in high school but went straight to the NBA before the minimum draft age was raised to 19. He admitted money was available under the table.

“I can’t even talk about it,” James said with a smile. “Me and my mom were poor. And if they expected me to step foot on a college campus and not go to the NBA, then we weren’t going to be poor for long, I’ll tell you that. That’s a fact.

“Kids getting paid is nothing new. That’s not news. Have you guys seen ‘Blue Chips?’ Seriously, it’s a real movie.”

James said that, as much as he loves March Madness, he’s not a fan of the NCAA growing rich off the efforts of top-rated basketball and football players. While scholarship athletes receive a free education, the big-time college sports industry generates enormous wealth the athletes never see.

“Obviously, I’ve never been a part of it so I don’t know all the rules and regulations, but I do know what five-star athletes bring to a campus in both basketball and football,” James said. “I know how much these college coaches get paid, I know how much these colleges are gaining off these kids.”

James stressed the importance of the NBA G League as a potential alternative to college for developing top basketball players. He hopes to meet with NBA commissioner Adam Silver to discuss the feasibility of modeling the G League on systems employed by professional club basketball and soccer teams in Europe for long-term development.

“The NCAA is corrupt,” James said. “We know that. I’m sorry. It’s going to make headlines, but it’s corrupt.”

Shifting gears, James was asked if he had seen “Black Panther,” and said he saw it Monday night and was impressed. He also said he’s friends with actor Michael B. Jordan, who plays Erik Killmonger, and knows director-writer Ryan Coogler as well.

“It’s one of the greatest movies I’ve ever seen, and there’s so many different reasons why,” James said. “At this time and place in society that we’re in right now, I think it was perfect timing . . . ‘Black Panther’ is like that because right now in society, we’re talking about ‘Black Lives Matter’ and equality and things of that nature.”

James was a fan of comic superheroes growing up but never thought he would see a black superhero just as he never thought he would see a black president like Barack Obama. Asked if it’s a sign of progress that his two boys can see those developments and think it’s no big deal, James agreed that it’s progress but added that it really is significant for African-Americans.

“It’s a huge deal for us to say, ‘You can become the president of the United States. You can become a doctor, you can become the greatest policeman, you can become a fireman, you can become Black Panther,’” James said. “That stuff means so much for us.

“All we have is dreams, all we have is dreams. And when you have something that can make that dream become a reality whether it’s a superhero or someone that made it out of your community like myself, it allows our dreams to become actuality. It’s a huge thing.”

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