The point: He
wants the attention and is prepared for the responsibility that comes with it.
Remember when Barkley argued that athletes weren't role models? The 21-year-old
James disagrees. "Kids look up to us," he says. "They love the way
we play the game of basketball, and they like some of the things we do off the
court, so we are role models. That wasn't Barkley's point of view, but he knows
he's a role model no matter how many times he says [otherwise]."
Five more things
you should know about King James.
1) He likes
sports, maybe even more than you do. James will watch anything from the World
Series of Poker to English soccer. He's also pals with Tom Brady, Maria
Sharapova and Lance Armstrong.
2) He prefers
passing to scoring. "What you realize when you play with him is that he's
very selfless," says Brand. "Because of the commercials and the fame,
all the fans over there [in Japan] wanted to see him score and dunk, but he
seemed like he didn't care if he was sacrificing points. He wanted to be the
3) He's all about
bang for the buck. According to 82games.com, James was the most valuable player
in the league last year based on its Fair Salary rating, which factors in
offensive production, defense, influence on team success and minutes played.
The site calculated that James, who was paid $4.6 million, was worth $27.39
million, just ahead of Bryant and--you guessed it!--Wade. Who said all NBA
players are overpaid?
4) He can appear
unassuming. Asked if he considers himself an ambassador for the game, he says,
"I just consider myself one of the good players in our league, and just try
to spread the game and the right way to play it--and that's being a team
player. Being an ambassador, that's such a big word. I'm nowhere near that
5) He respects his
hoops forebears (if not their haircuts). In Japan, as Team USA strolled through
the Institute of Sports Science, James stopped at a flat-screen TV. Wade and
Anthony joined him. On the tube, the Magic were playing the Rockets in the 1995
Finals, a skinny Shaq versus a crafty Hakeem Olajuwon. James made a crack about
O'Neal's near-buzz cut, causing Wade and Anthony to break into giggles, yet the
players remained there, transfixed. They stared at the screen, one generation
paying silent homage to its predecessor. "That's one thing about the three
of us: We respect greatness," explains Wade. "We respect what the guys
before us did to get [the league] to this point. Without them, there'd be no
us. We love the game of basketball, we love the history of basketball. We were
excited and giddy talking about Shaq and Olajuwon."
you'll be excited and giddy talking about Wade and James and Anthony. Really,
just check them out. We're not promising that every game is worth watching--or
any Hawks game, for that matter. But this league has moved past relying on the
Shaq-Kobe drama. With this trio of stars, the next 10 years could be another
golden age. As SuperSonics guard Ray Allen says, "A lot is riding on those
Of course, it's
conceivable that James, Wade and Anthony might not be the next Michael, Magic
and Bird, or even the next West, Robertson and Bellamy. But isn't the
possibility that they will--the chance to witness transcendent talent blossom,
to see historic rivalries forged, to be swept up in the beauty of high-caliber
competition--the reason you watch sports in the first place?