NEW YORK—LeBron James has always seen Johnny Manziel as a kindred spirit, consistently overanalyzed, sometimes harshly criticized.
He's also known to be open to mentoring younger athletes, so he was receptive when a call came from people close to the Texas A&M quarterback.
"They reached out to me when he was going through a lot of off-the-field things, that I thought was just overblown," James said. "He's not the only college kid that's ever went to a frat party, or the only college kid that ever had fun. But obviously, he's Johnny Manziel so it's blown out of proportion."
It was more than just some parties, of course.
Manziel dealt with an investigation into his involvement in autograph signings, which led to a suspension for just one half of the 2013 season opener against Rice. James never attended college, but he is familiar with such investigations: The Hummer he received as a birthday present in 2002 drew the attention of the Ohio High School Athletics Association. He appealed a ruling and ultimately received just a two-game suspension. (That Hummer, incidentally, went up for auction a little over a week ago.)
"When the opportunity was brought to me, I basically just told him, if he's willing to listen, if he's willing to take my advice, then I'm willing to give it," James said. "And throughout this whole season, I would text him weekly before the games and after the games. I didn't know it would lead to us being together now because of business, but I was happy to help him."
Yes, they're together now. Wednesday, reports surfaced that Manziel had signed with James' childhood friend and business manager, Maverick Carter, and the LRMR agency.
"Is it official yet?" James asked before Thursday's game against the Knicks. "Maybe?"
Assured that it was public knowledge, James elaborated.
"At the end of the day, he's an unbelievable competitor," James said. "And we love what he brings to the table as far as being a football player and as far as being a young man that's trying to strive for greatness. So we're just happy to be a friend of his and be able to help him."