His business card is larger than life which seems only fitting. It's the size of an index card, light grey with a modern font "JG" emblem stamped into the upper left hand side. But beyond its unusual size, the card is surprisingly unassuming. It contains the typical components of a business card: name, business address, phone and fax numbers. But what's striking is the simplicity in three words centered between the common card elements.
Fashion. Architecture. Basketball.
In an odd way the card and its grand simplicity is representative of the man.
He's an iconic fixture at NBA games, seated courtside night after night in arenas across the country. His dress is legendary, borne from years of spending late summers in France and his lifelong friendships with fashion designers around the world. His style is unique and unforgettable. Often Versace leather, sometimes ragged looking with a tear in the knee and a wide brimmed hat that is presumably worth more than the truck I drive.
But behind his striking attire is nothing more than a surprisingly quiet and unassuming man, passionate about those three things he has printed on his business card. And it's probably safe to say that his three passions don't always occur in the same order. His late summers spent in France, engulfed in the world of fashion, are preceded by early summers spent watching NBA basketball from a courtside seat.
I asked him to name the best game he's ever seen but that was an impossible question to answer. He pointed out that he's seen more than 4,000 games in the last 50 years so singling out one is a difficult task. He did mention that my question was ironic because he's seen two phenomenal games in the past week alone-- the Damian Lillard buzzer beating win over the Rockets on Friday night and the Clippers emotional win over Golden State on Saturday. "I've never seen the fans in L.A. respond like that," he said, visibly surprised.
We discussed his close friendship with Tony Parker (Tony waived to him and said hello from the podium when he saw Jimmy in the press conference on Sunday). He mentioned that he's friends with all the Spurs from Peter Holt down, but he's probably closest with Tony and Boris Diaw. They often spend time together in St. Tropez after the season.
Then we got into the good stuff.
Travis: What do you say to those that label the Spurs as boring?
Jimmy: I think the boring tag was a few years ago. I don't think people say that very much anymore, the people that are knowledgeable anyway. Tony Parker is one of the most exciting players in the league. He showed yesterday what he can do. And for someone that really appreciates basketball, the way the Spurs play as a team and the fact that they have so many international players, for me, it makes the Spurs one of my favorite teams, if not the favorite team.
Travis: You've mentioned before that Kobe Bryant doesn't care for you, even going as far to say that he told Pau Gasol not to talk to you. Is that still the case?
Jimmy: Kobe appeals to me as a player. I have to credit him as being one of the greatest of all time. But his selfishness sometimes irritates me in terms of it's really all about Kobe, and that's probably where that comes from.
Travis: OK, since we're rolling now how about Derek Fisher? Give me some dirt. We can't stand Fisher.
Jimmy: Derek off the court is a real gentleman who's always been extremely nice to me and I have nothing but good things to say about him as a person. But his style on the court has never appealed to me very much because he used to be, in my opinion, the number one flopper in the league and so the league cracked down on that a little bit. And the form of his jump shot has never appealed to me either, even though he's been quite effective with it.
He hasn't been one of my favorite players on the court, but I think he's a terrific guy.
Travis: So if his form doesn't appeal to you, you have to really hate Shawn Marion's form then, correct?
Jimmy: Well I'd have to say that about Shawn as well, who's also a good friend of mine.
Travis: What are your thoughts on Donald Sterling and the Clippers. Do you think he'll sell quickly?
Jimmy: If I had to guess I would say that he's not gonna sell quickly. He's gonna fight it tooth and nail and never own up to doing anything wrong. I expect that a sale is not in the immediate future.
Travis: Have you ever met him?
Jimmy: (long pause) Yes I've known him since he has owned the Clippers, if not before.
Note: If I was Mike Wallace I might have pursued this line of questioning further. I chose not to. The pauses and reluctance in his voice to discuss this particular subject was evident. For that reason I made the decision to keep the discussion on basketball and not try to solve society's ills. Perhaps that opportunity will present itself at a later time, but the reason for my requesting to speak with Goldstein wasn't to pin him down on Sterling. He made his thoughts on the matter clear. He completely agrees with Commissioner Silver's lifetime ban.
Travis: Prediction for the playoffs?
Jimmy: Well I expect the Heat to get to the Finals, but the West is so crazy, so balanced, that I really don't have a prediction. But for me the 2nd round schedule is great because there's no conflict between the two series so I intend to see every game. I'm on a streak now of having gone to 16 games in 16 days and I intend to keep that going so if nothing else it'll be fun.
Travis: You fly coach, right? No charters? You just buy the next game ticket and catch a commercial flight?
Jimmy: Fortunately I've got some nice friendships with owners around the league that help me in getting tickets and I pay for them almost all the time. But yes, I fly commercially from city to city. I was set to fly from Memphis to Portland on Friday, which is about a six hour flight. So I was asking myself if it was really worth a six hour flight to see a basketball game? Well, it turned out to be an historic basketball game so I was very happy I made the effort.
Travis: Your home is famous for many reasons, one being that scenes from the cult classic The Big Lebowski were filmed there. The movie recently celebrated it's fifteenth anniversary. Were you a part of that celebration?
Jimmy: There was a reunion where a big group of fans dressed as characters from the movie and came over to my house which was great. And another funny thing recently occurred. I was at a dinner party and Jeff Bridges was there. It was the first time I'd seen him in fifteen years. While talking to him at the party and seeing how he was acting it made me realize that Jeff Bridges is the real life "Dude." He was playing himself in The Big Lebowski.
Travis: The Big Lebowski is one of my all-time favorites and that's a fantastic story. I know architecture is another passion of yours so tell me more about your home and your latest project, Club James.
Jimmy: I have a very famous, modern architecture house designed by John Lautner. I started building a separate complex on the other side of my driveway and started making plans for a multi-purpose complex. John Lautner had passed away so I worked together with an architect named Duncan Nicholson who formerly worked for John and held him in very high esteem. So we decided to design this complex as though John were designing it.
I had a tremendous input on the design because having worked with John, I had a pretty good vision on how he wanted to do things. The complex is made primarily of concrete and glass. It consists of an "infinity tennis court" on the top floor, with one entire side bound by three foot high wall of glass, which enables a spectacular view of the city of Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean.
The 2nd level below consists of Club James. A nightclub, designed in a way a nightclub has never been done, again with elements of concrete and glass and a spectacular view. And my offices are on the same level with the same view of the city.
Travis: So if I'm ever in L.A. can I come up to the house and sip White Russians while you show me around?
Jimmy: (pause) Yes. If you're in L.A. come up to the house and I'll show you around.
Fashion. Architecture. Basketball. His three passions, laid out before me in a thirty minute phone conversation before he caught a flight to Oklahoma City for Game One of the Thunder and Clippers on Monday night.
His slow, methodical speaking style would suddenly quicken while describing to me the beauty in the glass and concrete structures he is developing or in his choice to make the long flight to Portland last Friday to witness a thrilling elimination playoff game. The joy in his voice was evident while describing his friendships with people across the NBA and his love for France.
Because behind the Versace and money and celebrity lifestyle is Jimmy the basketball fan. There's a simple purity in his love for the game. He stays until the final buzzer sounds and then he's off again to the next city to do it all over again.
I introduced myself to Jimmy in the media room at the AT&T Center on Sunday hoping to set this conversation up. I'm thankful that he agreed.
We left the press conference together and chatted about basketball as we walked down the grey hallways underneath the bleachers that had so recently been filled with delirious Spurs fans. As I turned to make my trek to the media elevator I shook hands with Jimmy and we parted ways. The arena lights were already off and it was eerily silent in the cavernous building. I watched as he walked down the tunnel into the arena and out onto the court before disappearing into the darkness.