[He] becomes the star of the game, stands out there and I say, “Barry do you want to do this interview?” He looked at me and decided to do the interview, and [right before it] he said, “Jim Gray you’re alright with me.” [In his book, Gray writes, “I can’t explain why he did that.”] So that turned the whole corner. Yes, it causes friction. It causes angst. Sometimes people move on and forget about it and they respect it and it gives them a different level of connecting, of rapport. So it can happen in both directions.
I’m more referring to close friends of yours, people like Julius Erving and Chuck Daly, who were in your wedding?
I’ve never had a falling out with one of my friends who was close to me over something that I did on television or radio. I think those people who are true friends in my life understand it’s my job, and when we’ve had to mix what they do with what I do, they knew what was coming, or they didn’t do the interview. Which was always a possibility. Everyone always has the right to say no.
You write about Pete Rose, who you interviewed “over a hundred times” before that infamous World Series interview: “I wouldn’t have called us friends.” If Pete Rose was a close friend of yours, how do you think that interview would’ve gone?
That’s almost an impossible question to answer. I was well acquainted with Pete. We were very friendly but weren’t friends. Pete and I knew each other quite well. I had been a guest on Pete’s radio show countless times. So I didn’t hang out with Pete on the road. I wasn’t ever over to his house.
Look, it was the first time he was on the field in ten years, he’d signed away his own banishment from baseball. It was an opportunity for Pete to be back involved with baseball and so I would’ve had to have asked the questions whether he was my next door neighbor or whether I’d never met him before.
You wrote that you didn’t lose sleep that night after doing the interview. Has any interview made you lose sleep?
Nope. Not that I can recall. Nothing that jumps out. I mean, I’ve probably been bothered that I didn’t do better in a lot of interviews.
About The Decision you wrote: ”I don’t think LeBron deserves much blame at all, even though I’ve felt over the years like I’ve been pushed by outside forces and the volume of harsh reaction to cast fault in his direction. I haven’t, and I won’t. Mostly, when I think of LeBron and ‘The Decision,’ I feel responsible that he suffered for something that I helped create.” Can you elaborate on this?
Well, it kind of speaks for itself. The outside forces—look at the avalanche that came down on him for what happened. And I wasn’t gonna be pushed and I won’t be pushed. It’s not fair to do it. That’s how I feel, and you know it would’ve been easy to join that bandwagon and to jump on it, but it would not have been right and I won’t do it.
Do you think there will ever be a day when a majority of people see ‘The Decision’ as positively as you do?
I can’t speak for other people, but I think what I pointed out is just exactly what I wrote. It’s the Curt Flood moment, and Curt Flood is rightly revered. This was the empowerment of players and LeBron took it on his shoulders and obviously there were some quirks and some flaws, but look at now, [the players] can all owe a huge debt of gratitude to LeBron. That doesn’t mean it was perfect.