The Most Unexpected, Endearing Thing About LeBron James

A list of his suspected fibs has been making the rounds throughout the NBA fan community for more than a year.

Welcome to the latest edition of BuzzFeed News' culture newsletter, Cleanse the Timeline! You can subscribe here.

Hello!

I am exhausted from the miserable drama of Love Is Blind. I don’t know why I do it to myself, truly. I don’t want to talk about towels or tangerines ever again. But I am recovering by watching the delightful Apple TV+ drama Bad Sisters. It stars Sharon Horgan (my queen!) as one of five siblings who come under suspicion when one of their awful — like, cartoonishly awful — spouses dies. I am in love with every single person in this cast. What a delight!

Cleanse the Timeline has your non-TV pop culture needs covered too. Tomi Obaro’s book recommendation today is a classic — Hanif Kureishi’s The Buddha of Suburbia — and Albert Samaha shares his favorite theory about Lebron James’s charming enthusiasms.

Take care,

Estelle Tang, deputy culture editor

P.S. Did you know BuzzFeed News has a new true crime newsletter? You can subscribe to Suspicious Circumstances here.

Welcome to Read This, where we recommend something old or new to add to your ever-growing book pile.

The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi

I first encountered Kureishi’s writing without realizing it some years ago, when I watched the 1985 film My Beautiful Laundrette. Featuring a young, dreamy Daniel Day-Lewis, the film is about a queer Pakistani Brit named Omar (Gordon Warnecke) who falls in love with a punk played by Day-Lewis. Kureishi wrote the screenplay, which was nominated for an Academy Award.

His first novel, The Buddha of Suburbia, came out a few years later to immediate acclaim, and it’s easy to see why.

It’s a funny, raunchy, irreverent coming-of-age story about a young man named Karim, born to an English mother and an Indian father, whose home life is dramatically upended when his father embarks on an affair with a free-spirited English woman who exposes Karim to a fashionable bohemian world outside the confines of South London. There are plenty of memorable characters, from resolute leftist Jamila to skeevy theater director Pyker to Charlie, Karim’s school crush and eventual stepbrother, who becomes a punk rock star.

The novel is set during the late ’70s, when England was undergoing political upheaval, skinheads were roaming the streets, and “vicious little council estate kids with hedgehog hair, howling about anarchy and hatred” made chaotic music. As a time capsule of the period, it’s brilliant, and Kureishi’s discussions of race and class still feel freakishly relevant, even though his viewpoint is doggedly undogmatic.

David Bowie, who wrote music for the BBC adaptation, was a fan. So is Zadie Smith, whose 2015 introduction of a new edition of the novel I read and enjoyed years ago, though I never picked up the book. Now I’m glad I finally did. —Tomi Obaro

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This is Keeping Score, where Albert Samaha dissects the juiciest dramas of the sports world.

I Love It When LeBron James Says Something Unconvincing

Last week, during a press conference after a game, LeBron James was asked about his appreciation for Takeoff, the member of rap trio Migos who had just been killed in a shooting in Houston.

“I’ve been listening to those guys for so long,” LeBron said. “I was listening to those guys my first year with the Heat — 2010. You can ask any one of my teammates back then. They had no idea who the Migos was.”

Some pointed out that Migos didn’t release their first album until 2011 — but let’s be fair, who can really keep track of dates these days? And maybe he had early access to the music courtesy of a well-connected pal.

But for fans, this was an opportunity to flex a favorite theory: that LeBron, a global icon revered as one of the greatest athletes ever, a wealthy philanthropist with a thriving business portfolio, and by all accounts a decent dude who’s never gotten in any serious trouble, stretches the truth to bolster his cultural bona fides.

A list of his suspected fibs has been making the rounds throughout the NBA fan community for more than a year. In one clip, he unconvincingly affirms his familiarity with current and former players of the Liverpool Football Club, which he’d bought an ownership stake in. In another, he claims that, before watching the 2006 game in which Kobe Bryant scored a historic 81 points, “I said he was probably gonna score 70 tonight. I don’t know what made me say that.” In another, he talks in circles in response to a question about his “biggest takeaway” from The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which he’d been photographed reading.

In June 2016, asked to name his favorite scene, moment, phrase, or quote from The Godfather Part II, which he said he’d watched at least six times that year, he inexplicably deflected: “It’s so many different phrases and too many different lines in that movie to just categorize one,” he replied, sounding like Sarah Palin in 2008 when she was unable to name a single outlet she got her news from.

It’s possible that these examples of vagueness are simply the result of a poor memory. But LeBron has a famously robust mind, capable of holding a yearslong archive of on-court minutia thanks to “a photographic memory that allows him to remember the location of all ten players on the court in each moment of a 48-minute game,” according to Sports Illustrated.

Or maybe his claims are just savvy efforts to make himself seem relatable to those of us who aren’t 6’8” multimillionaires with Barack Obama in our contacts — like when he posts videos of himself rapping the wrong lyrics to a song playing in his car.

I prefer a more straightforward theory. Since he rose to fame as a 15-year-old prodigy, LeBron has built his brand on well-rounded excellence. He is truly great at every significant basketball skill, he broadcasts his attentiveness as a father and spouse, and he has developed a sprawling business empire. This is a dude who wants no part of mediocrity. For a man who reportedly spends $1.5 million a year to take care of his body, what’s a few harmless exaggerations in the pursuit of looking as cool as possible?

Listening to LeBron stumble through eyebrow-raising responses, I can barely contain my affection. This is a guy who hangs out with Beyoncé and Jay-Z, whose jerseys are donned in every corner of the world, whose face is blasted across big-city billboards — how endearing that he still cares what the rest of us think of him! My guilt over that hour I spent posting carefully edited Instagram stories washes away. If not even LeBron can escape the intense urge to impress others, I can cut myself some slack. —Albert Samaha

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