Memphis Grizzlies veteran swingman Mike Miller joined the Miami Heat the same year LeBron James bolted Cleveland for South Beach.
Among the things Miller deemed mostly intriguing about James is how he often went out of his way to give back to the community.
“He’s about as giving as I’ve ever seen,” Miller said of James.
Which, of course, is why Miller was among those who sensed there was more to James’ decision in declining to meet earlier this week with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital patient Josh Hardy as reported by Memphis’ WREG News Channel 3.
Hardy was a recipient of St. Jude’s Make A Dream Come True. Among his wishes was to attend Wednesday night’s Heat versus Grizzlies game so he could watch James, his favorite player, in action. However, after a request by WREG through a Heat media relations representative to have James meet with Hardy, the two-time reigning league MVP reportedly declined the inquiry.
Still, Hardy was among the 18,000-plus witnesses in attendance and sat in a luxury suite to watch Memphis outlast the two-time defending champs, 107-102, and keep alive its playoff hopes.
Though Hardy didn’t get to meet James, he was given paraphernalia by the Grizzlies organization and got to meet Quincy Pondexter, his favorite player on the team.
Pondexter, the Grizzlies reserve shooting guard who is sidelined with a season-ending tarsal navicular stress fracture in his right foot he suffered in a December 7 game against Golden State, sat with Hardy during the game and gave him a basketball that was signed by his teammates.
Grizzlies All-Star power forward Zach Randolph was among the players who autographed Hardy’s basketball, although he said he wasn’t aware that James had declined to meet with the St. Jude patient until after shootaround Friday morning.
Memphis played host to the Philadelphia 76ers Friday at 7 p.m. CST.
Randolph, who in November was given NBA’s Community Assist Award in recognition of his charitable efforts and contributions in the community, said James’ decision not to meet with Hardy could have been because of a conflict in his schedule. Wednesday’s game against the Grizzlies was the last on back-to-back nights for the Heat, who hosted the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.
“LeBron does a lot,” Randolph said. He probably was busy. LeBron is a great guy. You know, he does a lot for the community and for the kids. So that’s (Wednesday’s decline) nothing. He’ll probably fly the kid to meet him.”
Miller, who re-signed with the Grizzlies in July after a six-year absence, also rushed to James’ defense, saying the situation likely was a misunderstanding.
“Knowing LeBron as much as I know I him, I doubt the information even got to him,” Miller said. “He takes all of those requests.”
Asked if he believed because the Heat played on consecutive nights was a factor in James having turned down a request to meet with the patient, Miller said, “I think he would have met with him still. I think with that, it had to do with a situation where he probably didn’t get the information.”
While Randolph and Miller wouldn’t say whether they sensed the controversy surrounding James has been blown out of proportion, both agreed the 10-year veteran and four-time league MVP’s track record is such that he is committed to giving back to underprivileged individuals. “He gets those request a lot,” Miller said. Believe me, when it comes to St. Jude and children and giving back, he’s going to do that.”
That James was labeled a “punk” and “thug” by several WREG viewers was unwarranted, Miller said.
“The bottom line is no one knows anybody,” he said. “Until you get to know somebody, it’s difficult to judge them. I reserve judgment on everybody I know.”