Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum has carved out a résumé for himself as both an elite NBA talent and award-winning podcast host. Yesterday, he joined The Old Man and the Three with JJ Redick and Tommy Alter as a guest, where he discussed a bevy of topics, ranging from his role as NBPA union president, Lehigh experiences, his current mindset as a Blazer, and everything in between.
McCollum explained that cultivating a legacy beyond his on-court play went into the thinking of stepping up as a successor to Chris Paul. He also went into detail on one of his preeminent goals, in seeking to better the lives of his peers.
“The results will be there as you said before, like you’ve seen the change in salary. You’ve seen the change in us taking back our rights. Like, I’m really trying to put together a real situation where players are making money on-and-off the court, where players are able to do a lot of things that they want to do, not just because of basketball money, but because they’re investing in the right things because they have the right resources. Because, I’m tired of seeing guys go broke. I’m tired of seeing guys losing out on certain situations because there’s so many business opportunities available to you. You just have to vet the right ones, have the right people around you, and actually make an effort.”
In terms of on-court talk, Redick asked McCollum about the now-viral photograph of him weaving through traffic as a 5-foot-2 freshman at Lehigh University. McCollum frequented the term “irrational confidence” in each of his ventures, including his dream to make the NBA. Even at that size, McCollum said he modeled his game after Allen Iverson and believed he could make it even then, particularly if he had one growth spurt.
In explaining how he ended up at Lehigh University, McCollum described his mentality, one that likely explains why he and star teammate Damian Lillard are so tight-knit. He admitted that there were some doubts after no top-tier schools called, how it fueled what he called a “psycho mentality,” and that he didn’t even know what Lehigh was.
“Like, first you question like, ‘Am I not nice.’ And then you’re like, ‘Nah, it’s not me it’s them. It’s not me, it’s them.’ And that’s kind of what I went through, honestly. And then you progress. I told you how I scored 54 my first career start. Lehigh sent me a letter three days later. Coach Matt Logie, who’s still my friend to this day. I’ll probably get lunch with him on Thursday.
He sent me a letter. I had never heard of Lehigh. I was like ‘What is Lehigh?’ That’s when the NCAA, like that March Madness video game, was out. I went right to the video game. I started playing with Lehigh, like to see what type of teams they play against, what conference it is, whatever, whatever, whatever.”
McCollum explained that his parents were instrumental in helping him cut his list down to Lehigh, the university that coveted him pre-growth spurt and were willing to make him a priority. Before his 2012 March Madness showcase — the 30-point game and win over Duke that propelled him to the national spotlight — McCollum said he prayed to match up with the Blue Devils, and predicted that they would win even prior to.
In regards to his Blazers run, McCollum talked about Damian Lillard and the authenticity of their relationship, as his outlook on both the 2020-21 and upcoming 2021-22 season. He said he wasn’t happy with the way the season ended, telling Lillard that he “failed him” during his historic Game Five performance against Denver.
“I have a full summer understanding what we went through, understanding how I performed at the beginning of the season, middle and the end, and I know how I need to perform for us to have success. Obviously, I want to win a championship. I have dreams, goals, aspirations, that’s the priority. But for any of that to happen, I need to be the best version of myself, and I have to be a version of myself that most of the world hasn’t seen. You talk about that irrational confidence again, and it’s still here.”
McCollum goes into more detail than what is explained here. Along the rest of the podcast, he elaborates even further on his collegiate years, how he channeled his underdog mentality, pre-stardom Blazers years, and his on-and-off court work ethic among much else.