Posted: Monday December 3, 2012 9:56AM ; Updated: Monday December 3, 2012 11:49AM

Sportsman: LeBron James (cont.)

By Lee Jenkins

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The preliminary report of Kent State researchers, who are tracking the group's progress, found that James's students averaged 14.7 absences last year, compared with 18.9 for their peers in the district. Even after the Wheels for Education kids pass third grade, they remain in the program. They will be monitored by James and his staff until they graduate from high school. The first commencement ceremony will be in 2021.


LeBron James
LeBron James scored nine of his 20 points in the final four minutes as Team USA survived a scare from Lithuania in pool play at the 2012 Olympics.
John W. McDonough/SI

United States-Lithuania
Olympic Park Basketball Arena, London
Aug. 4, 2012

JERRY COLANGELO, chairman of USA Basketball: The only thing he was missing was the NBA championship. Once that happened, it changed everything for him, and it was pretty obvious when he came to our camp. There was a different look on his face, one of relief, of confidence, of having arrived. You could see it.... We had just scored about 3,000 points against Nigeria, so one day we couldn't miss, and the next was different. We were not on our game. Lithuania started shooting the ball, and we had a real struggle on our hands.

MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: We went into the week trying to pace the team, so we gave them some days off and weren't as prepared as we normally would be. We had a chance to lose that game in the last five minutes. Over the years LeBron has learned that it's not just what a leader says but how a leader looks that counts. It's the non-verbal communication that can sometimes carry the day. His body language and facial expressions were so strong that day. He put us on his back.

LeBRON JAMES: I sent an e-mail about this to Warren Buffett. I'm a kid from Akron who lived in poverty for a long time, and I sometimes send financial statements to one of the richest guys ever. It's kind of scary. I'm like, "Why is he talking to me?" But anyway, the e-mail was about representing your country. It's not about sports. It's about everything else. It's about everybody who has ever walked on U.S. soil. You start to remember the lives that have been lost, the troops, the real superheroes. That's what went through my mind. You talk about a burden, or a weight, it gets no heavier. And then what went through my mind was, You're here for a reason. It's time to make a play.

JASON HERRON, Cavaliers fan: I burned his jersey the night he left, but I'm American more than anything, and I was definitely rooting for him. I bet 90% of Cleveland was rooting for him. It looked like the game was slipping away. Everybody was struggling. You were thinking, Could they lose? Then he scored nine points in the last four minutes. Only he could do that. Love him or hate him, you have to respect him.

KRZYZEWSKI: It happened again in the gold medal game [against Spain]. He had four fouls, and I had to take him out. I didn't want to. That was our vulnerable spot because we didn't have many big guys. He had to guard a center. Late in the second half, I couldn't wait any longer to put him back in. I can still see him driving and dunking, and taking that three. He made the winning plays for us. I can also still see his incredible reaction. He was smiling, and he has this great smile that consumes his entire face. After the game he was jumping around with his teammates, singing and dancing on the bus. I told him, "What you've accomplished this year puts you in an elite group in sport. Man, take some time off."

JAMES: I read what people wrote after that game, and they were saying I was in a class with sports figures who had historic single years: Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Usain Bolt. I don't think it can get any better than 2012.

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