The man behind LeBron’s redemption

On Friday, Maverick Carter, LeBron James’ primary business partner and marketing consultant, joined me for a rare extensive interview on my “Real Talk” podcast at FOXSportsradio.com.

Like James, Carter’s public image has rebounded over the past year, as James’ tremendous play and long-awaited championship run have chased “The Decision” into the background.

Off the court, Carter’s and James’ partnership with Fenway Sports Management — a Boston-based sports marketing agency owned by the same group that owns the Red Sox and the Liverpool soccer club — and business ventures with Beats by Dre and Energy Sheets have helped reshape Carter’s reputation.

I asked Carter, 30, if he was ready to lead LeBron’s marketing arm when he ascended to the position five years ago.

“No, I was not ready,” he responded matter-of-factly. “Not ready at all. But again, going back to my comment with Steve Nash, I wasn’t ready, but I wasn’t doing it all on my own and I’m still not. I mean obviously I’m the name that people know, but since day one Lynn Merritt, one of the best in the business at Nike, has been a part of our team. We have great lawyers, we have great accountants, we have a team at LRMR (Carter’s marketing firm) with more experience in the work world than me, like Michelle Campbell who’s our COO.

"So just back to my Steve Nash analogy. I wasn’t ready just like you can’t ask Steve Nash to guard Russell Westbrook one on one by himself, but you come up with a scheme and put a team around him, you can do it. So, just like today, I mean I couldn’t do it all by myself today. We have a fantastic team.”

Carter and I also talked about Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, who is the star of a free-agent drama best-described as “The InDecision.” I asked Carter what advice he would give Howard.

“Dwight Howard’s got to do what his heart will be most into,” Carter said, “because no matter if people get upset with you — fans, friends, whatever — if you’re not happy when you decide to do whatever you’re going to do, then it’s not going to work out. I mean, obviously, you know what LeBron went through, but his heart was in it when he went to Miami, and he played that way and was dedicated that way. And when it got to its very toughest moments, because his heart was in it and that’s what he wanted to do, he didn’t waver. He just tried harder.

"And I think that’s the thing that I would tell Dwight. Do what your heart’s into. If your heart’s in Orlando and you want to play and win in Orlando and be there, do that. If your heart says ‘I need to go somewhere else to have my best shot at winning,’ and winning is most important to you, or whatever is most important to him, and his heart’s really truly into it, go do that.

"You can’t even try and do anything else because it’s going to be tough no matter where you go. No matter what he does it’s going to get harder for him. This is only the tip of the iceberg.”

Carter said there are similarities between his relationship with James and James’ relationship with fellow Heat star Dwyane Wade.

“The honesty in the relationship, the trust, the commitment to each other,” Carter said of James and Wade. “Like, ‘We’re here to do this together. We came together to do this. We’re committed to do this. Let’s do it. We failed.’ And you know, last year against Dallas they failed. They didn’t get it done. So, they were like, ‘Let’s refocus it, recommit to it. We still got a vision, we’re still passionate about it and we’re still committed to each other.’

"So, those things are in their relationship and it’s the same things (LeBron) and I have for sure. And the honesty in it, the ability to reflect to each other, and reflect about yourself, and talk about the things that went wrong, and celebrate the things that went great.”

You can listen to the entire hour-long podcast at FOXSportsradio.com or at iTunes.