LeBron's Whirlwind First Week

Spotlight shines on James and Cavs, even off court

Posted: Tuesday, November 04, 2003

PORTLAND, Ore. - LeBron James' first week in the NBA covered more than 5,000 miles, three games, and an uncountable number of highlights, sound bites and articles.

Millions saw what he did on the floor, but here's a little slice of what life was like off it:


Early in the morning, James' sports utility vehicle pulls into the underground parking lot at Cleveland's Gund Arena. Practice is earlier than usual, starting at 9 a.m. On Sunday night, practice was later than usual, ending after 6 p.m. Then he had to stay afterward to film an interview for Good Morning America. The grind has begun.

There are some special visitors around as he enters the building through the loading dock - elephants and tigers. The circus is in town and the innards of the arena smell like it. After practice, it is another media session, this time with cameras from CNBC doing a financial story on him and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

After a quick shower, James and his teammates dress up and board a bus to head to the Renaissance Hotel for the team's tip-off luncheon. Of course, James is the star of the show. During the question-and-answer session with team broadcaster Joe Tait, James gets a multiple-choice question: "What would you rather have in a game: A. 25 points. B. 15 rebounds. C: 10 assists?" He smiles. This one is too easy. "D. All of the above," he quips.

After more autographs and photos, the Cavaliers are back on the bus and are off on their first road trip. At about 4:15 in the afternoon, the team's private 737 rumbles down the runway at Hopkins International Airport. There's a brief stop for refueling in Wichita, Kan., and it's on to Sacramento, Calif., without a hitch.


The Cavaliers arrive at Arco Arena for a morning practice. James and several of his teammates were here just a month earlier, filming a Nike commercial that is debuting this week. It is all business this time as Coach Paul Silas goes over the game plan for the tough opener against the Sacramento Kings.

After practice ends and he fulfills his media duties, James does one of his favorite things - horsing around on the court. Today he's working on his three-quarter court shot, tossing shots up one-handed like he's throwing a football. None go in, but he has fun trying. The veterans, though, are ready to head back to the hotel - and let him know.

They start beeping the horn on the bus, which is parked just down the tunnel from the arena floor. Silas can't help but laugh as he tugs James off the court. Later, James films interviews with ESPN and TNT, the two national networks doing his first two games.

Many of his teammates head out for dinner, but he stays in the hotel with family and friends, much to the dismay of the autograph-seekers who have gathered in and around the lobby.

Around 11 p.m., just as the Los Angeles Lakers are putting the finishing touches on a victory over the Dallas Mavericks, the fire alarm goes off in the hotel. Marvin Cross, the director of team security, and Randy Mims, LeBron's uncle who travels with him, come down to investigate as the fire department shows up.

It is a false alarm and everyone heads to bed.


Game day. James arrives for shootaround at Arco, with ESPN cameras there to record it. He says he's not yet mentally focused on the game, but will get there.

Still looking relaxed, he steals a microphone from ESPN's crew and pretends to join an interview Darius Miles is doing with a reporter from the Washington Post. This is a prank the two friends often pull on each other.

Later, James has lunch with former NBA star Moses Malone, who also jumped to the NBA right out of high school.

He enjoys a pregame meal of fettucine with shrimp and chicken and heads back to the arena for the game, his arrival again recorded for posterity.

He goes through his personal pregame shootaround with assistant coach Bob Donewald and again meets with the media. Now he says he's ready.

He is. In his first NBA game, a 106-92 loss, James scores 25 points to the marvel of the sports world (former Juneau-Douglas High School star Carlos Boozer scores 14 points and grabs 11 rebounds).

Afterward, James and the Cavs fly to Phoenix, Ariz., not arriving until 2:30 a.m. Welcome to the NBA.


The shootaround at America West Arena is light, as the team is still a little dazed from the travel. Afternoon naps are the order of the day.

But Silas wants to go over a few things and there is more time than usual, since the game won't start until 8:30 p.m. Phoenix time.

This morning the trick shot of choice by James and his teammates is to make a hoop from behind the basket, off the floor. The only way it seems possible is by bouncing the ball off the top of the shot clock. Bets are taken, and no one can pull it off.

In the evening before the game, James is breaking down game film in the locker room. He flips off the VCR to watch a few minutes of his friend Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets play the Houston Rockets on TNT. It is halftime of that game and the network is showing James' highlights from the night before.

He watches in silence until his breakaway in which he decides to pass to teammate Ricky Davis instead of dunking himself.

He turns, smiles and says, "You all see that? That's unselfishness."

This night he scores 21 points with 12 rebounds and eight assists (Boozer adds 11 points and 14 rebounds). James very easily could have had a triple double, but several potential assists turn into turnovers when teammates can't handle his passes. The Cavaliers drop their second game, this one 95-86 to the Phoenix Suns.


Instead of flying to Portland, Ore., right after the game, Silas decides to give his team a chance to get a good night's rest. The team stays in Phoenix and practices there in the afternoon.

It is not a hard, physical practice, but Silas goes over several points he's been displeased with. He's certain his team should have won at least one.

In the early evening, James and his team make the 2 12-hour flight back north to Oregon. He won't leave town without discussing a little business with officials from Nike, which is located in Beaverton, a Portland suburb. James debuted his new shoes this week, but there's dozens of other items in the pipeline.

But more pressing things are at hand, and another high-profile game against the Portland Trail Blazers was less than 24 hours away.


Ushers are nearly overwhelmed when the doors to the Rose Garden open, as fans rush to take position near the tunnel to the Cavaliers locker room. They wait there for more than an hour as James completes his pregame work.

They're not the only ones interested in James. Isaiah Thomas steps on the court and he and James are instantly drawn to each other. Thomas is working the game for NBA TV, but he has another mission - he's going to bring his son to see James this Friday in Indianapolis, and his son wants LeBron's autograph.

A few hours later, the locker room is silent after a third consecutive loss, 104-85 to the Trail Blazers. James was off his game, playing tired even though he says he's not. James scored eight points on 3-for-12 shooting and added six assists (Boozer had 15 points and nine rebounds).

Outside another media inquisition awaits, but James has a weapon planned.

When he emerges, he's dressed head-to-toe in University of Oregon garb, including a personalized jersey. Another group of media in another town charmed.

He stays for a while and signs autographs for kids in the arena, each leaving for home with a smile. Even after three losses in four nights, so does James.

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