The issues between Kanter and James go back to earlier this season, when James — in the run-up to a game at Madison Square Garden — criticized the Knicks for selecting Frank Ntilikina over Dennis Smith Jr. with the No. 8 overall draft pick. That led to a dust-up between all three players during the subsequent game.
“Before the game, I wasn’t thinking I was going to fight him, and make the crowd go crazy,” Kanter said with a laugh on the latest episode of “Posting Up,” The Washington Post’s NBA podcast. “But I think it just happened during the game because . . . when they call you ‘The King,’ and they say you are the best player on Earth, you don’t go out there and break a 19-year-old kid’s confidence. I saw [Ntilikina] after those comments and I saw he was really down.
“We talked to him. Me, and some of the vets, we talked to him and said, ‘Hey man, you have to step up for yourself.’ And he did.”
Eventually, Kanter and James got into it, too.
“You just don’t mess with rookies,” he said.
The subject of taking on James was just one of many things discussed with Kanter during a wide-ranging half-hour interview.
— How he’s reacted to becoming an international figure because of his comments about Turkish politics.
— What life is like as a Muslim in the NBA, and how that shapes how he conducts himself.
— His regrets over the “childish” way he handled being traded away by his first team, the Utah Jazz, and how that impacted how he handled being dealt by his second team, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
— Why Kanter hoped college teammate Brandon Knight was drafted by the Jazz instead of him.
— Why he chose to come to the United States as opposed to playing professionally in Europe, and what it was like not playing competitively for close to two years because of eligibility issues when he did so.
— What it’s like playing with Russell Westbrook, the player Kanter said he would choose to play with if he could pick to play with anyone in the NBA.
— His friendship with eccentric Thunder center Steven Adams.
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