Q. Can sports play a role in national and international relations?
King: Sure. I spend some time at NBA charity events with people like Dikembe Mutombo, who goes home and helps build hospitals and schools. The celebrity, whether it’s in Hollywood or in sports, gets you some access and entrée and recognition. That can then lead to discussions about other issues, whether it’s the AIDS crisis in Africa or education issues around the world or hunger in inner-city America or some city in Africa. Sports is the glue that draws people together. When you have a community that’s organized for some reason, that’s a great opportunity to have other conversations about local or world affairs.
Q. Would you trade your job for any job in sports?
King: Yes, to be the catcher of the Boston Red Sox. You bet your ass.
Q. There could be an opening this year.
King: (laughing) You know, I see Larry Lucchino every now and then and I always tell him, “I’m ready.” When I was a kid growing up, at first I wanted to be Carlton Fisk. But then I wanted to be Bob Montgomery. He got paid a decent paycheck and he only had to hurt his knees 20 or 30 times a season. Otherwise he got to catch out in the bullpen and watch baseball every day and get paid for it. That’s my dream job.
Q. Where’s the imagination today in politics and sports and in the media?
King: I don’t think there’s any lack of imagination. Once something gets set, whether it’s a team or a league or a structure, once you have a set of rules and an organization — in sports it’s the leagues; in politics it’s the parties; in the media it’s the networks or the newspapers — like in everything in life, you get habits. But then new people come along with imagination.
Q. For example?
King: Dr. J started dunking the ball and made it acceptable, and the game changed. You have some people in politics who are challenging the orthodoxies of their parties because they know that some issues are big and that they need to think outside the box. And everybody in our business, whether it’s print or TV, is struggling at the moment to try to figure out how to deliver our product in this world of new technology. The thirst for information is greater than ever, and yet you have broadcast and cable networks and print organizations all struggling.
Q. Why is that?
King: Because the technology has been growing by leaps and bounds and we’ve been stubborn in defending our old ways of doing things because they’re comfortable to us. Some people tend to resist change and, therefore, new ideas at first. But if they’re good ideas, they will ultimately win out. You see it when sports are transformed. The power of imagination will overcome any obstacle in time.