LeBron James and Kylian Mbappe play different sports on different sides of the world. But they nevertheless have much in common.
Recently the two sporting superstars sat down for an insightful discussion about life as a global icon and how their lives changed during their teenage years.
They also exchanged Paris Saint-Germain and LA Lakers shirts as James stopped off in Paris as part of his ‘More Than An Athlete World Tour’.
At the age of 18 you both became among the biggest athletes in the world. How did your lives change when you came to that turning point?
LeBron James – The biggest change is that everything you do is magnified. That’s a very challenging and difficult situation for an 18-year-old. One day you can say and do whatever you want, walk the streets, go to movies and have fun. And then the next day you’re put on this world stage and now they expect you to be someone that you might not be able to fulfil at that point in time.
Kylian Mbappe – You don’t live like everybody else anymore, you have responsibilities. You have to deal with professionalism and are asked to behave as an adult.
LJ – I had kind of prepared myself because I had fallen in love with the game at such a younger age than 18. When I was three, four, five, six, I was having visions of being on the biggest stage.
KM – I’ve always dreamt about being in that position. And when I reached that level, for me it wasn’t a success yet, but the beginning of a story.
Kylian, you went from an icon of French football to a pillar of the national team who helped them win their second World Cup. How did you live with that change in status?
KM – As soon as I lifted that trophy I said to myself: ‘When I’m back home, I’ll work hard over the next four years to win it again, I can’t let it go to anyone else.’
I have so much love for football, that I think is the reason why I seek refuge in training – I’m always guided by that desire to conquer, to win.
LB – Winning makes you want it more. It’s like when you were a kid, and your parents bought you the greatest gift at Christmas you were so like enlightened and it was so exciting but you wanted more and more and more.
Winning doesn’t satisfy you. Even when you’ve left everything out there, you still feel like you have more to give.
KM – You should always focus on training and consider it a step forward. And each step is taking you higher and higher until you reach the top, which is where you should stay.
LB – When you want to be great, the greatest, you want to continue to win and win and win and that’s what drives you.
What does ‘More Than An Athlete’ mean?
LB – It means you should never allow people to put you inside a box, and for me being more than an athlete, I’ve been able to be great in my community, giving back to my community, being able to be outspoken, being able to lead the next generation, letting them understand how important their voice is, how powerful their voice is.
KM – The greatest are an inspiration for all the kids who wake up early in the morning. Everyone watches you, is inspired by you and wants to be you. So you influence society. That’s what being more than an athlete means. I want more kids to have that opportunity. I want everybody to start with the same chance.
LB – We know everything that these kids are going through because we were them at some point. I want them to be able to have someone that they can look up to and also have someone that they know cares about them.
KM – Helping people, moreover those coming from where you grew up, this is the most important. Not everyone can succeed, but at least you can to act for them. I use my fame for a cause, it serves some interests.
LB – We change culture. What we do, what say, how we perform, we change culture so we definitely have the right and the power to be able to do more than play football and basketball.