Gregg Popovich is being accused of doing more than just showering LeBron James with praises in a recent interview. The San Antonio Spurs head coach is rumored to be recruiting LeBron to the Western Conference team after defending the NBA superstar from radio show host and Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham.
Popovich was interviewed by the press after the Spurs won, 110-94, against the Cavaliers on Sunday when he heaped praises on King James, Clutch Points reported. He was asked about Ingraham and her comments telling LeBron to “shut up and dribble.”
Popovich said it was arrogant of a talking head like Ingraham to tell James not to speak about issues he wants to talk about.
“He’s been a brilliant example for millions of kids. Especially kids with lesser opportunities. They see in this guy someone who has consistently exhibited excellence in the workplace and gives them a voice,” Popovich said of James.
The 69-year-old Pop also compared the situation with LeBron to the Black Panther film. Popovich said it is “cool” to have someone like LeBron to look up to as a superhero. He also said James is “very, very special” and that everyone should be proud to have someone like him “who’s willing to speak out about a variety of topics.”
Upon hearing of Pop throwing accolades at him, LeBron responded by saying the Spurs coach is one of the “all-time favorite people” he “ever crossed paths with.”
Popovich and James have shown mutual respect for each other through the years. In fact, the two have praised each other numerous times in the past, yet not one of them has been fined for tampering before. Based on this, Pop shouldn’t be accused of having an ulterior motive.
However, with the NBA cracking down on tampering issues, Popovich may want to tone down or cease from giving any more compliments to players not wearing a Spurs uniform.
Getting James to sign with the Spurs in the offseason will, of course, be a major coup for the franchise, especially if rumors that Kawhi Leonard is no longer happy in San Antonio are true. LeBron will ease into the role Kawhi will vacate if he does decide to leave.
Recruiting James at this juncture is a violation of NBA anti-tampering rules. Popovich is aware of the repercussions of doing so especially after Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers have been fined for tampering in relation to Paul George and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
In the case with Antetokounmpo, Magic was fined $50,000 for praising the Milwaukee Bucks forward. Johnson said the “Greek Freak” is good enough to be MVP and will help the Bucks win an NBA title someday. As SB Nation pointed out, the NBA fined Magic to prevent other executives from “gassing up potential free agents.”
Rumors are aplenty that LeBron will leave Cleveland for a second time. He’s been linked to the Lakers, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, and the Philadelphia 76ers. James has already shared that he would love to play for Popovich, but he was talking about the 2020 Olympics, as USA Today reported. Still, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if LeBron decides to play for Popovich in San Antonio.