HOUSTON — NBA All-Star media availability is not for the faint at heart. All 12 players from each squad are available simultaneously, sitting behind tables. Media from all corners of the globe, including Australia, Scotland, India and Japan, were littered amongst the Yanks such as yours truly.
A brief tour around the makeshift interview room was a Who’s Who in the NBA’s player caste system. Paul George and Jrue Holiday weren’t as popular as Chris Bosh and even Luol Deng. Tyson Chandler and Brook Lopez proved that not everyone has forgotten about two of the game’s few remaining true centers.
Meanwhile, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade had shrouds of media hovering over them. But anyone wondering where LeBron James was only needed to take a brief glance around the room.
The gaggle of reporters surrounding James looked like a human pack of cotton balls—stuffed to the max.
So as James sat there, being peppered with questions ranging from how he feels about the prospect of Derrick Rose sitting out the entire season to whether he prefers Batman, Superman or Ironman.
He thought about it for a second. “I’m a huge Batman fan,” James said. “I love Batman. He doesn’t have any super powers, it’s just him and a cape and he’s learned some karate over the years.”
But he had a brief moment of uncertainty, nothing new.
“Ironman is really good, though,” he seemingly pondered out loud. “I like his aura about him, how strong he is, and he’s cool, too. I think he’s cool.”
As and I sat there observing James, that term bounced back and forth between my ears.
At this moment, LeBron was at his finest. His journey here has been somewhat turbulent. But now, after 10 years, Simba has finally become Mufasa. And on his first All-Star Weekend as an NBA Champion, James was calm, cool, confident and collected.
I was at the 2003 NBA Draft when he walked across the stage in his all white suit and met David Stern for the first time. I was at Madison Square Garden on April 5, 2006 when he passed up a game winning shot to Larry Hughes and left New York City with a loss. I was there when he made his final visit to the Garden as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers back on Nov. 6, 2009.
I watched The Decision, I watched James take his talents to South Beach, and then I watched him use them to win a championship and a Bill Russell Finals MVP award.
On Wednesday night, I was in Oklahoma City and saw him pound on Kevin Durant’s team.
And on Thursday, I saw him, as King.
Love him or hate him, James’ progression has been an amazing thing to witness. And it’s true, we all are.
Wasted potential is an atrocity. With James, we needn’t worry.
“I want to be the best of all-time,” he said matter-of-factly when asked what his goals were for his career. And though James is all about team, he has played with a newfound belief in himself that everyone has noticed.
That’s the difference.
It’s his aura.
According to James, his recent stretch of scoring 30 points in a game while shooting 60 percent from the field wasn’t all that impressive.