Trump insults NBA star Lebron James in midnight Twitter tirade: 'I like Mike!'

President’s barb comes days after basketball superstar announces plans for new hometown public school which will provide free meals, summer camp and college tuition for at-risk children

Mattha Busby
Saturday 04 August 2018 13:13 BST
Lebron James says he would considering running against Donald Trump for president

Donald Trump has taunted LeBron James in a late-night Twitter tirade, implying he prefers legendary basketball player Michael Jordan

The president’s rant came as James was interviewed on CNN by Don Lemon, himself a vociferous opponent of the US leader, during which the player explained why he called Mr Trump “a bum” and discussed the opening of his new “I Promise” school.

“Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon,” the president tweeted.

“He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!”

“I like Mike!” was seen as a reference to all-time great Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan, amid an ongoing debate as to who is the greatest basketball player of all time.

Mr Trump’s description of James in 2013 as “a greater player and a great guy” suggested his latest judgement was not entirely based on sporting merit.

In the interview, James discussed the political climate and the power sports have to bring people together.

“We are in a position right now, in America more importantly, where this whole race thing is taking over,” he said. “One, because I believe our president is kinda trying to divide us.”

“Kinda?” Lemon interjected.

“Yeah, he is,” James replied. “He is, no I don’t wanna say kinda.

“He’s dividing us and what I noticed over the last few months that he’s kinda used sport to divide us and that’s something I can’t relate to because I know that sport was the first time I was ever around someone white.

“I got that opportunity to see them and learn about them, and they got the opportunity to learn about me and we became very good friends and I was like ‘Oh, wow this was all because of sports’.

“Sports has never been something that divides people, it’s always been something that brings someone together.”

Academic performance, however, will be the focus at the new $8m school, in James’s hometown Akron, Ohio, which will only accept at-risk students who have fallen behind their peers and is driven by the LA Lakers player’s own experience of poverty as a child.

Running from 9am to 5pm, and providing a summer school too, the public institution aims to keep children busy and out of harm’s way. Pupils will also receive free breakfast, lunch and dinner, free bikes and college tuition.

LeBron James
LeBron James (Getty)

Referencing the killing of black teenager Trayvon Martin as a starting point for a growing consciousness around race relations, he said the death “hit a switch for him”, adding: “From then on I knew my voice and my platform had to be used for more than just sports.”

James famously called Mr Trump a “bum” in 2017 when he defended fellow basketball player Stephen Curry’s decision not to visit the White House as part of the traditional visit that the NBA champions conduct each year.

“[Curry] already said he wasn’t going,” James told Lemon. “And [Trump] tried to use it after that to say ‘Well, you’re not invited’, well, you can’t uninvite me to something I’ve already said I’m not going to go to.”

Citing Mr Trump’s attacks on various other black sportsmen, such as NFL player Colin Kaepernick, Lemon asked: “Do you think he uses black athletes as a scapegoat?”

“At times, at times, and more often than not,” replied James. “I believe he uses anything that’s popular to try to negate people from trying to think about the positive things that they could actually be doing and try to just get our minds to not be as sharp as possible right then.

“Either from kneeling, from football players, look at Kaepernick, protest was something that he believed in and he did it in the most calm fashion possible.

“You look at all these instances where [Trump is] trying to divide our sport ... but at the end of the day sport is why we come together.”

As the interview neared its conclusion, Lemon asked: “If someone tried to recruit a LeBron to run for president, listen if they said ‘Look, we’ve got no one, if you don’t run Trump’s gonna win’, would you run?”

“Well in that case I may,” James said.

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