INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- LeBron James responded on Monday to Kanye West’s dis track, “Facts,” in which the hip-hop artist boasted about his collaboration with Adidas while disparaging Nike, the sports apparel company that originally released his signature sneaker, the Air Yeezy.
The song, released on New Year’s Eve, includes the lyrics, "Nike, Nike treat employees just like slaves // Gave LeBron a billi' not to run away."
James inked a lifetime deal with Nike in December, estimated to be worth well north of $600 million and possibly as much as the $1 billion figure that West referenced.
“I haven’t really listened to it,” James said after the Cleveland Cavaliers held shootaround on Monday morning. “I heard about it but I haven’t listened to it. Obviously I’m going to side with Nike no matter who it is. It’s just, it’s family when you talk about Nike, and I’m always on their side no matter what the situation is, so. We don’t look upon nobody on our side, we just try to put the best athletes that we can out on the floor every night.”
Then James went on to quote Nike’s co-founder and chairman, Phil Knight, in expressing the company’s mission to celebrate sports and those who play them as a not-so-subtle dig as to why it would have ended its relationship with West in the past.
“Phil Knight’s greatest saying is ‘Always listen to the heart of the athlete, listen to the words of the athlete,’” James said. “And that’s all it’s about, nothing else."
James and West's personal history includes a couple of very public appearances together -- first when James hosted "Saturday Night Live" in September 2007 and West was the musical guest and later when West was in the audience for James' "The Decision" broadcast in July 2010. West has also included James in his lyrics before, in his songs "Gotta Have It" and "New God Flow" as well as in a verse he delivers on the Jadakiss song, "Gettin' It In."
West and Nike severed their business interests in December 2013. He has since released the popular Yeezy Boost, a boot-like lifestyle sneaker, and the Yeezy Boost 350, a low-top training shoe, with Adidas.
The format of West’s “Facts” is similar to the Drake and Future single, “Jumpman,” which was released in November 2015. Drake has an endorsement deal with the Jordan Brand, a subsidiary of Nike.
West's song also name checks the Houston Rockets' James Harden and the Los Angeles Lakers' Nick "Swaggy P" Young, who both left their relationships with Nike to sign with Adidas within the past six months. Young garnered attention for the move by wearing a pair of Yeezys in a game this season.