NEW YORK — LeBron James began offering guidance to Texas A&M football star Johnny Manziel last summer, and now that relationship has turned into a business opportunity.
Manziel, who recently declared for the NFL Draft, will be represented by James’ marketing firm, LRMR. Manziel is the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner who guided Texas A&M to instant success in the Southeastern Conference, but who also was the subject of off-the-field controversies. One of those controversies, signing memorabilia for autograph dealers, put Manziel’s amateur status with the NCAA in question.
James said before the Heat’s game against the Knicks on Thursday that Manziel’s associates reached out to James during Manziel’s turbulent summer. James, of course, went through ordeals similar to Manziel at a young age involving gifts.
“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 who ever went to a frat party, or ever had fun. But obviously he’s Johnny Manziel, so it was blown out of proportion.
“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, and throughout this whole season I would text him weekly before the games and after the games.
James said his intention wasn’t to land Manziel as a marketing client. Manziel was arguably the biggest name in college football this season and his nickname, Johnny Football, could have proud marketing appeal.
“At the end of the day, I think he’s an unbelievable competitor, and we love what he brings to the table as far as being a football player and a young man who’s trying to strive for greatness,” James said. “So we’re just happy we’re able to be a friend of his and be able to help him.”
WHITE HOUSE VISIT
The Miami Heat will meet with President Barack Obama at the White House on Tuesday, where the President will congratulate the team on its 2012-13 NBA championship.
It’s the team’s second consecutive visit to the White House. Last year, the President celebrated the Heat’s 2011-12 championship. Highlights of last year’s visit to the White House included Dwyane Wade’s flashy shoes and Obama telling James, “It’s your world, man.”
“It’s an incredible honor and a privilege,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’re able to do it with our Heat family and then also bring in some of our family. It’s a culmination of all that hard work to be able to celebrate it again in the highest house.”
The team will also visit with wounded warriors from the Walter Reed Military Medical Center while at the White House.
“It really isn’t about us receiving, it’s about us really being privileged to have this profession that we have and to be able to give back,” Spoelstra said. “We’ve always, obviously with coach (Pat) Riley initiative, to give back to the military and at least show our appreciation from the NBA for everything they do. It’s a small gesture. It’s the least we can do, but it is important to us.”
Riley was unable to make the trip to the White House last year due to flulike symptoms. Chris Bosh said the trip will be more of a routine this year, but that “it will always be a big deal because it’s part of a championship.”
“That never gets old, but once you’ve done something before, it’s more routine after that,” Bosh said. “But it’s a great honor and a privilege to do it, and I don’t think anyone on this team takes it for granted because we could not be going to the White House, and you know what that means.”
Bosh, the Heat center, said he doesn’t have much planned for this year’s White House visit, because there apparently isn’t much flexibility with the schedule.
“There’s not much you can do,” Bosh said. “It’s pretty much cut and paste and that’s really it. You’re not really going to be able to venture out and do much. It’s heavily secured and there’s a schedule that you have to follow.”
As for asking Obama any questions, Bosh said he’s probably just going to shake the President’s hand.
“You only get two seconds and then he’s moving on,” Bosh said. “So, you got to make it quick if you want to ask him something. I just shake his hand and say ‘what’s up.’ You’re going to get a politically correct answer anyways. It’s the President.”
Shane Battier, on the other hand, is hoping for a spirited conversation with Obama.
“I’m going to let it be organic and natural,” Battier said. “Those are the best encounters.”
Battier was reminded after Thursday morning’s shootaround in New York that he is now old enough to run for President.
“That’s a scary thought,” Battier said. “I weep for America.”