Cleveland – LeBron James enjoyed perhaps the 2022 NBA All-Star game more than any other of the 18 games he’s played in in his career.
He was in Cleveland, just north of his hometown of Akron, Ohio. His LeBron team won the competition for the fifth consecutive season. His wife, children, and mother were at the game, and James spent most of the weekend with his childhood friends. The win provided $450,000 to James’ I Promise Scholars Program.
And James made the winning shot, the jumping trivia he said was inspired by Michael Jordan.
Speaking of Jordan, James made time to salute Jordan in the first half when the league’s top 76 players were honored for the NBA’s 75th Anniversary season. James doesn’t touch on this subject much. There is no close relationship between the two for reasons that are likely rooted in many competitive drives. Perhaps this is the beginning of a different relationship between the two.
“I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to shake hands with the man who inspired me throughout my childhood,” James said. “I haven’t had much dialogue with him in my 20 or 19 years in this business, but a part of me wouldn’t be here without MJ’s inspiration. I’ve always wanted to be like him growing up.
“It’s crazy that tonight’s game winning shot was so lackluster, and was inspired by MJ. The way he wore his shoes, the way he wore his uniform, I mean, right down to some of the cars he drove, how inspired I was. I didn’t want to waste this opportunity because we’re not in Much the same building and we haven’t been in the same building often throughout my career.
“She meant something to me.”
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In a fulfilling career that has exceeded seemingly impossible expectations with four championships, four players in the game, four finalists and three All-Stars, James doesn’t have many batting moments left, with the Basketball Hall of Fame induction being one of them.
He had a Sunday, on stage with friends, contemporaries, competitors and champions.
James has a lot to say this weekend, and some of it is calculated. As he sat on the podium late on a Sunday night, he tried to explain what that night and the weekend meant to him.
“Being a part of the 75 greatest basketball players of all time takes me back to my childhood again, growing up in Spring Hill and recording all my inspirations on my wall, Allen Iverson, Jason Kidd, Gary Payton, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson,” he said. James. “To see these guys today and then be on stage with these guys. You don’t understand. I try to make you understand as much as I can, but it’s just crazy.”
But asking to do his best to explain it, he was offered the following:
“It would be like going to your favorite concert in the biggest stadium, and you’re literally on stage while they’re performing, feeling ‘I can’t believe I’m here.’ That’s the best way I can describe it. I can’t believe I’m sitting next to Bruce Springsteen while playing in a stadium in London. With 160,000 people, or I’m in the park with Jay-Z or someone else the person is. I’m sitting here with Whitney Houston on stage in an amphitheater with 90,000 people and you’re on stage. That’s how it felt to me. I couldn’t believe it. “
Twenty-five years ago, when the Cleveland All-Star Game honored the game’s 50 greatest players, James was only 11 years old, and his amazing future in basketball was just a dream.
“I remember 25 years ago we were 12 and 11 years old, wishing we had the opportunity or the means to get to Cleveland and see some of the greatest basketball players of all time because they inspired us so much,” James said. “For me to be here today, for my best friend here, and for my wife, children, and family, my mom. There are so many people who have seen me grow from a little girl to what I am today. I couldn’t have pictured that moment better.”
He was embraced by fans in the arena, many of whom are Cavaliers fans whom James thanks for the 2016 Cleveland Basketball Championship.
“It’s just a super drug. Super, super, super dope,” James said. “I was so humbled and appreciated for that.”
James admitted he won’t be that open, and that’s gamified for the rest of the season as he tries to put the struggling Los Angeles Lakers in a better position in the playoffs. But in this moment, absorb the experience.
“I hope I will never forget this moment,” he said. “It would be great if this moment could come back 25 years from now when they’d make the 100 best. I’ll probably never forget this moment. It’s something I’m so happy for my kids to witness. Then when my grandchildren show up at some point, I’ll be able to show them some snapshots of what Their grandfather managed to achieve it when he played a game of basketball.”
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