Millions of people have followed LeBron James’ basketball career in detail, but only one person has been dubbed the “LeBron James Whisperer” and that’s Brian Windhorst.
Windhorst joined Jimmy Traina on the latest episode of the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast, and the ESPN reporter tempered the idea that he is LeBron’s closest media confidant.
“In years past, I had messaged with him, but we both kind of moved on,” Windhorst said. “LeBron doesn’t have personal relationships like that with reporters, he hasn’t for a long time.”
Windhorst went to the same high school as James in Akron, Ohio, and although he graduated seven years earlier, the reporter returned to cover James’ blossoming basketball career at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. When James was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Windhorst was similarly hired to cover the team, becoming the youngest traveling beat writer in the NBA. And when James signed with the Miami Heat, Windhorst was hired by ESPN to cover the South Florida basketball team and their Big 3.
With Windhorst’s career as a basketball reporter kind of following LeBron’s footsteps, he’s often considered to be the reporter who James most closely trusts and the reporter who James handpicked to cover his career. But since James moved to Los Angeles to join the Lakers, Windhorst’s reporting for ESPN has been far less focused on the 37-year-old four-time champion than in the past.
“In LA, there’s so much media there and the locker room situation has gone down to nil (because of the pandemic). I mean I would talk to him in the locker room,” Windhorst said. “I didn’t go over to his house to have wine and cigars. I talked to him in the locker room and in the hallways for two decades and so, that sort of cut off, and just frankly, the Lakers haven’t been that relevant of a team.”
Although Windhorst no longer covers him as intently as he once did, there still might not be a better person from the NBA media to offer insight on the league’s most popular player.
“There would be times where we’d come to do a LeBron interview session and I would watch the first question and he’d look up and give a rote answer, I’d be like ‘turn off the mic, not today,'” Windhorst explained. “And there were other days where LeBron was engaged and you knew you were gonna get solid, not gold, platinum…if you told me, ‘Brian you get one question with LeBron today and he has to tell the truth,’ my question would be, do you want to win another championship, or do you want to play with your son?”
He doesn’t know the answer, but he knows James loves playing, he loves being in Los Angeles and he’s “enamored” with the idea of playing with his son, Bronny, an appeal that Windhorst believes stems from seeing Ken Griffey Jr. play with his father.