I’m always stunned by how omnipresent TMZ appears to be in Los Angeles. Seriously, they even hunted down new Los Angeles Lakers trainer Gunnar Peterson in a field somewhere recently. Like, at what level celebrity do they pass on hounding you? Are Lakers ball boys safe from the cameras?
At any rate, it’s no wonder Harvey Levin’s henchmen found former Lakers coach and current Miami Heat president Pat Riley wandering the streets. They really, really wanted him to commit to either rooting for or against LeBron James in the 2017 NBA Finals, and Riley really, really just wanted to get to his car and not talk about the superstar who left his Heat to rejoin the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014.
All of which led to this awkward exchange in a parking lot:
TMZ: “LeBron James is making his seventh straight NBA Finals appearance. Are you rooting for him to win?”
Riley: “The Lakers with Magic Johnson went to the Finals during Showtime nine times in 12 years.”
TMZ: “So, you’re not even impressed by seven straight?”
Riley: “Yes, I am. Very impressed. You kidding me?”
TMZ: “Are you rooting for him to win?”
Riley: “Ahhhh …”
TMZ: “It’s an easy question.”
Riley: “I’d like to see a great Finals. I’m about a great Finals, and I think it’s going to be one of the best ever, but I love LeBron. We all do. He was a part of our team for four years. BUT this is anybody’s show.”
There’s something great about Riley still using “during Showtime” as a blanket statement to reference the 1980s era of the franchise. I know we all call them the Showtime Lakers, but something about Riley saying it makes me think of him wiping the sleeves of a Don Johnson-esque sport coat, slicking back his hair with a switchblade comb and saying, “It’s Showtime,” into the mirror like Beetlejuice.
Referencing his own coaching accomplishments when asked about LeBron is also very Pat Riley.
Golden State Warriors co-owner Peter Guber added a bit of drama, constantly popping into the TMZ shot to say, “Don’t answer the question,” whenever the cameraman asked about LeBron, like some publicist. And Riley fully ignored him, as if he’s incapable of completely skirting the question himself.
For real, Riley’s parting shot made it abundantly clear he knew exactly what TMZ was trying to do:
Riley: “You think this is like a big scoop?
Riley: You’re shaking.”
That might be the greatest own of a TMZ ambush in the long and storied history of TMZ ambushes.
Truth be told, this is about as tepid a response to the question of whether Riley is rooting for LeBron as TMZ could’ve gotten. This is, after all, the same guy who dared James not to leave Miami, told him it would be the biggest mistake of his life, “was very angry when LeBron left,” lamented his “contemporary attitude”, took solace in “no more smiling faces with hidden agendas” and ultimately slotted LeBron’s legacy somewhere behind Shaquille O’Neal in terms of his top Heat acquisitions.
And let’s be clear: There is no way in hell Riley is rooting for LeBron to win another championship.
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