CLEVELAND — LeBron James doesn’t play for the Hawks, but his impact was felt Wednesday in downtown Atlanta.
CNN, whose headquarters are in the Georgia city, opted to release a complete transcript of James’ appearance on “Larry King Live” — two days before the program airs — because of extraordinary interest in the Cavaliers’ superstar forward.
Partial transcripts, some inaccurate, had been leaked online shortly after the interview was taped Tuesday at James’ mansion in Bath Township.
Those postings prompted CNN to publish the entire 7,997-word exchange between talk-show icon King and the two-time reigning NBA MVP.
While most of James’ comments on his impending free agency were made available by Turner Broadcasting the previous day, the full text reveals a fascinating one-hour conversation between the two “Kings,” which will be broadcast Friday at 9 p.m. on CNN.
Among the more interesting topics James addressed were:
Where to play
- Why the Cavaliers are his home team: “It’s a Cleveland/Akron team, because I grew up in Akron. I mean Akron is less than 30 miles south of Cleveland. So, absolutely (they’re my home team). My whole family is here. You know, when I played high school basketball, where I grew up, in the projects, a lot of things mean home for me here. And it’s not just about the basketball court.”
- President Barack Obama encouraging him to sign with Chicago: “I was a Chicago Bulls, a Michael Jordan fan growing up. (Obama’s words) may, it may carry weight. … Michael Jordan was just my inspiration. You know, everything that he did, I wanted to do. I met Michael Jordan, my first time, I was in the 10th grade. It was like he was walking on water when he came towards me.”
- Being a free agent in major league baseball, where there is no salary cap: “If we could — you know, if it was like baseball — we would all go to the same team. We can’t do that, unfortunately. … I mean if you put me and (Raptors forward Chris) Bosh on the same team, if you put me and (Heat guard) Dwyane Wade on the same team, or me and (Hawks guard) Joe Johnson, or a lot of these guys, a lot of teams would be much better. You know, the Cavs would be much better.”
- The determining factor: “My ultimate goal is winning championships, and I understand that me going down as one of the greats will not happen until I win a championship. So for me, the team that I decided to go toward ultimately has to have the best chance for me to win a championship not one year, but multiple years. But for me to continue to get better and help that team win, I think, ultimately, would be my decision. I’m going to do what’s best for me and my family.”
- Enjoying the moment: “It’s a happy pressure. To be in control, I mean we all, at some point, want to be in control of our destiny. So I’m looking forward to it. I really am. And just to be where I’m going to play in the fall. It’s going to be fun.”
The state of the city
- Why the Cavaliers were upset by the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals: “Their team was just, I think, a little bit better than ours. And they took advantage of some of our weaknesses. I mean we’re a really good team, but they were better than us. … It was definitely frustrating for me, knowing the competitor I am and knowing why I work out in the offseason and know what I do and the things that I do in the regular season. You never want your season to end in May.”
- The firing of Cleveland coach Mike Brown by owner Dan Gilbert: “I mean he was a great coach. Five great years we had together. We won, you know, the (2007) Eastern Conference championship. We won the regular season (most) wins two years in a row, I mean a lot of great things. But ultimately, we both, myself and Mike Brown, didn’t accomplish what we wanted to, and that was the NBA championship. And I think we wanted it more than anybody else. So it’s unfortunate. I wish him the best and I think he’s going to have a great coaching career.”
- Recognizing the impact he has on Northeast Ohio as a whole: “I think as far as saving the city economically, I can’t get too involved in that. I can’t let that be a decision of mine or what I do with my future. But as far as what I do in the community, that has a lot to do with it, because what I do in the city of Akron and what I do in the city of Cleveland means a lot to myself.”
- Growing up without a father after Gloria James gave birth to him when she was 16: “I thought this is how it was, you know, until I had some friends and I was like, ‘Oh, you got a mom and you got a dad?’ I didn’t know that was the rules. … She was doing everything I could ever dream of. Christmas is December 25 and my birthday was December 30. So I had gifts on both days, so there was no reason to even ask, ‘Mom, where’s my father?’ (or) ‘Where’s my dad?’ because she was doing it all.”
- His dreams of building a huge home near where he grew up in Akron: “As a kid, we would drive up and down 77 north — that’s our highway — there would be office buildings on the side of the highway and I’d be like, that’s what my house is going to look like when I get older. Sometimes when I look at my house now, it’s kind of bigger than some of those office buildings.”
- ◾ Having to move 12 times between the ages of 5-8 while his mother tried to make ends meet: “You know, every day that you woke up, you knew it was going to be a struggle. For me, already being part of a single-parent household and knowing it was just me and my mom, you would wake up times and hope that the next day you’d be able to be alongside your mother because she was out trying to make sure that I was taken care of. But all I cared about was her being home.”
- Having two young sons with longtime girlfriend Savannah Brinson, but not being married: “First of all, I think, you know, I love my kids. My girlfriend, she’s great. But I think when you think of marriage you understand you have to take your time. You can’t pull the trigger. When it’s right for you and you feel like it’s the right situation, then you should be able to do it. But you don’t want to rush into it. She doesn’t pressure me.”
- Dealing with the temptations that professional athletes face on the road: “I understand that my last name is a responsibility for my two boys, my family, my mother, rest in peace, my grandmother, a lot of people. That’s what keeps me humble and that’s what keeps me away from temptation because I understand that it’s not always and it’s not just about LeBron James. … It could be girls, it could be other situations, it could be money. It could be just being at the wrong place at the wrong time. I mean, if you have your priorities in check, then for the most part, it’s easy.”
The past and future
- Going straight from Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High to the NBA in 2003, instead of playing college basketball: “No, I never feel sad. But I do wish I could have been part of March Madness. Those are fun games and those are fun times to watch them. See, if I could have skipped the whole season and just played March Madness, I would have been all for it. … It was a choice between Ohio State and North Carolina when I was coming out of high school.”
- Following Jordan, who now is the managing partner of the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats, into the league’s ownership ranks: “Hopefully I could still be a part of basketball in some way. (Owning a team is) possible, I mean I think that’s great. You’re still in basketball and you’re also showing your business side. That would be awesome.”
- The movie — titled “Ballers” — that he will be filming in August, likely alongside comedic actor Kevin James: “It’s about a 40year-old guy, 35-year-old guys, who wish they could be LeBron James or Kobe Bryant, but they come to my camp and, you know, they have a lot of the same privileges as the NBA guys. So it’s going to be fun. We’re doing the casting now. So hopefully we can get some great people in it.”
- Going to the Lady Gaga concert at Quicken Loans Arena on July 14: “She’s an unbelievable performer, unbelievable talent. And she has a great following. Absolutely, I’ll be there.”
- Hosting “Saturday Night Live” for a second time: “Absolutely. I’m waiting for the call. (SNL executive producer) Lorne Michaels has got to give me a call. He’s got to give me a call. I’m ready.”
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.
Meals for the King
One of the Cavaliers’ most famous fans is hoping the way to LeBron James’ heart is through his stomach.
Cleveland native Michael Symon, one of Food Network’s Iron Chefs, has offered to go to James’ house once a month and cook a meal for the MVP’s family and friends if he re-signs as a free agent with the Cavaliers. Symon posted a letter to James on his Facebook page.
Symon thanked James for all he has done for the city and urged him to follow his heart when making his decision. Symon also pointed out that some legendary athletes — Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Jim Brown, Bill Russell and Michael Jordan — created their legacies primarily with one team.
Symon said he knows “firsthand” that James is a “class act” and he hopes James stays in Cleveland “so I can watch you finish what you started which is something not many people get to do.”
Last season, Symon teamed with the Cavs and opened two eating spots in Quicken Loans Arena.
— The Associated Press