Best-selling author and avid runner Malcolm Gladwell has challenged LeBron James to a mile race for charity.
If there’s such a thing as a Malcolm Gladwell stan, I’m it. I’ve read and reread Outliers, What the Dog Saw, The Tipping Point and David and Goliath too many times to tell.
His Revisionist History podcast is must-listen material every week when it drops. When Gladwell makes his frequent appearances on The Ringer podcasts, I’m very here for it. I like Malcolm Gladwell and I’m not afraid who knows it.
I really didn’t think it would be possible for me to like Gladwell more than I already do, but I’ve learned to never doubt his greatness. From the clouds, the author has thrown down the gauntlet to NBA MVP and World Champ LeBron James to race a mile with all proceeds going to charity.
For those who don’t know, Gladwell is an accomplished runner. He was a very solid miler in high school up in Canada and is still one of the biggest celebrity track and field fans. In college, he ran 3:55 for 1500 meters (the author of this post once ran 3:59 and stumbled around in a lactic acid coma for the better part of an afternoon). Three years ago, at the age of 51, he ran 4:54 in the Fifth Avenue Mile. Simply put, Gladwell can still run a mile much faster than the average human being.
The potential match race between Gladwell and James was brought to the Internet’s attention after video of James sprinting up and down the court with little effort surfaced last night.
Here’s James putting in the work.
As someone who has trained at an elite level as a collegiate runner, my expert opinion is that James would have to scratch and claw the whole way to break five minutes in the mile. He has a very smooth stride, even for someone who is pushing 260 pounds. There’s still just a physical limit to how fast a body that large can run a mile, even though James has taken off muscle the past few years in an effort to help his body hold up to the rigors of playing close to 100 games a year.
There’s no way James actually agrees to race Gladwell (remember how he confiscated video of Jordan Crawford dunking on him at a summer camp?), but the mile would be the perfect distance for a competitive race. Anything less than a mile favors James too much, while Gladwell would smoke him in anything longer. As badly as the world needs to see Malcolm Gladwell and LeBron James in an all-out sprint to the finish line (really, could there ever be a more mismatched pair of athletic rivals?), all we will be able to do is speculate.
Oh — and let’s find a way to rope Usain Bolt into this pipe dream of a race.