Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George, an NBA All-Star, has recently gone public about his desire to be mentored by fellow NBA All-Star and two-time NBA champion LeBron James of the Miami Heat. According to Basketball Insiders’ Jessica Camerato, George, 23, would like to have the opportunity to “pick [LeBron’s] brain” once the summer rolls around after the 2014 NBA Finals. George’s request stirred up mixed reactions as many people did not believe that the four-time MVP and reigning champ would be so open to the idea of helping out his competition. Surprisingly, however, LeBron does not seem to have any problem with mentoring George. A response from King James was revealed via a tweet from Bleacher Report’s Ethan J. Skolnick. The tweet reads that LeBron is “absolutely” open to letting George learn from him.
It is not uncommon for players to want to improve their game. Naturally, as competitors, players want to strive to be the best that they can be. However, current players are usually not so willing to help out other current players, especially when the player being helped is on the verge of coming into his own as a dominant threat in the league.
Retired NBA great Hakeem Olajuwon, for example, is no stranger to mentoring current players. In recent years, Olajuwon has spent time working with NBA All-Stars such as Dwight Howard and LeBron James during off-seasons to help them improve their game. Olajuwon, however, is no longer playing himself. Howard and James pose no threat to him because his playing days are behind him.
Long ago, another retired NBA great, former Detroit Pistons guard Isiah Thomas, found himself in a similar situation as Paul George. As detailed in his best-selling book “Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made,” author David Halberstam reveals that Thomas, seeking advice, once approached his good friend and fellow NBA player Earvin “Magic” Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers. Thomas asked Magic if he could let him in on the secret to making it to the NBA Finals. Although Magic and Thomas had a close friendship, Magic declined to tell him anything. Magic’s reasoning was that Thomas was his competition and helping him out would not be in his (Magic's) own best interest. Thomas was left to figure it out on his own.
LeBron, the leader of the defending NBA champs, is apparently far from the type of person and competitor that Magic Johnson was during his playing days. This, of course, is good news for Paul George. George, to the surprise of many, has not been rejected by LeBron. Only time will tell how everything plays out. Who knows? Maybe other players will start to reach out to King James for advice now.