“The bravado and the posing after every play isn’t him. I know that’s what everyone does now, but that’s not who LeBron is, trust me.”
Walker spoke to LeBron before the playoffs began, but they don’t talk as much. Dennis, who stopped running his basketball camp before the 2007 NBA Finals, saw him last fall when Durant had come to town to work out with LeBron and the two played in a flag football game together.
The circle is different now. Carter is still head of Team LeBron, which also includes childhood friends Randy Mims, Rich Paul, the agent Leon Rose and William Wesley, “Worldwide Wes,” friend to the stars.
“You can only be what you’re surrounded by,” Dennis says. “You don’t have a strong male figure in your life, what happens?
“ ‘The Decision?’ There’s no way that would have happened if he had a dad. Things would have never been formulated like that.”
Walker, whose son Frankie Jr., recently opened a shoe store in Miami with LeBron, said, “To this day, I tell him what he needs to hear, not what he wants to hear. Whether he likes it or not.”
“When he was playing for me in rec league, I gave the whole team the MVP. I did that for a reason, to keep him grounded, to show him it’s not about you — it’s about team. That was implanted in him at 8 or 9 years old. That’s one of the reasons why he’s unselfish.”
Told that Dennis said LeBron’s circle doesn’t seem interested in putting strong male figures around him to check his ego, Walker added, “I’m not going nowhere. And he know that.”
They both openly root for LeBron to win his first title, but Dennis worries for him.
He wonders if the people that surround him now would ever allow LeBron to have a real spiritual component in his life — if they truly believe in a higher power that doesn’t wear No. 6 on the back of his Heat jersey.
“I doubt it; look who he’s surrounded by,” he said. “I wonder how much he really controls now or if he’s just being led around by people who compartmentalize other people in his life — to make sure they don’t get too close to him anymore because they think that makes them less valuable to him. I’ve been put in a certain box. Frankie’s been put in a certain box. A lot of people who helped him growing up are like that now.
“Sometimes, I think it’s almost a Michael Jackson thing — where he’s this adult being treated like a child by all the people around him who make sure he doesn’t grow up and become all that he could.”
Frankie Walker isn’t sure of all that. He knows, for whatever reason, the kid who finally trusted his family to take care of him while his mother “got better” has yet to be shown in full.
“Forget about the ’ball, I’m extremely proud of what he has done,” Walker said. “He’s taken care of his family. He’s staying out of trouble. I don’t have to go visit him in no prison or jail. He’s doing something he’s supposed to do as a black man in this society — and that’s be a good father to his kids.
“If you knew what LeBron went through and you knew what he became, no way in the world you could root against him. Still don’t understand it.”
For Mike Wise’s previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/wise.