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CJ McCollum Talks Kobe Bryant, Damian Lillard, and His Brother with SI

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McCollum went through a wide-ranging Q&A with Sports Illustrated.

NBA: Preseason-Maccabi Haifa B.C. at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

CJ McCollum is one of the more involved NBA players. He’s got a journalism degree from LeHigh, but that didn’t stop him from taking classes at Harvard this summer; he’s opened centers for underprivileged children in Portland; he’s seen working out with the likes of Damian Lillard and Carmelo Anthony in the summer. You can even find him rooting for his brother, Euroleague star Errick McCollum, from the sidelines in the offseason.

Jon Wetheim of Sports Illustrated caught up with McCollum and asked about a range of things. For example, McCollum’s been involved on NBA sidelines interviewing players, even interviewing the commissioner. His future in media seems like a clear connection:

Jon Wertheim: I have a conspiracy theory about you.

C.J. McCollum: What’s that?

JW: When you say you’re interested in a future in media, we’re flattered and now you’ve basically guaranteed that we will write and speak very nice things about you.

CJM: No! Writing and speaking and communicating, it’s something important to me, and something I want to get better at. Over the last five years—and in college—I think I’ve done a pretty good job building my résumé and taking advantage of different opportunities. But my media career, it’s on hold right now, because of the season.

Who would McCollum want to interview if he had the chance?

Kobe. Or Michael. And I’d probably say Serena just because of her story and how she got to be in the position she’s in today. Regardless of gender, she’s arguably one of the greatest athletes ever.

McCollum is also an avid reader, as you can see from his Snapchat, and he tells Wetheim he’s a Malcom Gladwell fan.

When it comes to his brother, the Trail Blazers star has the utmost confindece:

JW: How many guys in the NBA can beat your brother, Errick, one-on-one?

CJM: Not a lot. There are some very good players in the NBA, but not a lot.

...

JW:​ Seriously though, I imagine seeing your brother must help you frame your own career—

CJM: That could easily have been me. Similar stories, except he went to a Division II school and I went to a Division I school. I was a later bloomer. They said I didn't have a position. Can I create a shot against elite defenders? Same stuff. He struggled at first and then found his way in Europe. Now he’s one of the best players in Europe and, miraculously, he’s making a lot more money than some NBA guys.

McCollum made headlines for leaving shoe company giant Nike for Li-Ning this season. Some have questioned the move, especially with the Oregon-Nike connection he’s living in:

JW:​ What’s a guy who works in Oregon doing leaving Nike and signing with Li Ning?

CJM: I’m thankful for the partnership and the opportunity. I feel like they can help their brand and I feel like I can help develop my brand.

JW:​ I feel like that was a media-trained answer.

CJM: Look at how many people there are in China and with that type of media presence they have and I can have, I’m looking forward to the challenge.

And finally, his backcourt companion and friend on the team Damian Lillard comes up. It turns out the guy who has features with Lil Wayne is the better rapper:

JW:​ What’s one thing Damian Lillard does better than you?

CJM: Finish at the rim, finding different angles, getting to the free–throw line. I need to do a better job—

JW:​ You’re giving away too much. I didn't mean basketball.

CJM: In that case, I’d say he’s a better rapper.

JW:​ You’re okay with that.

CJM: I accept who I am. Rapping is not my forte.

McCollum is coming off a blistering 36 points against the Memphis Grizzlies. He’s currently averaging 23.5 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.