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Original Issue

Playing Defense

LeBron scores as a lawyer in a new TV spot

COMMERCIAL SHOOTS aren't just money-making opportunities for LeBron James; once in a while the Cavaliers star and sought-after pitchman learns something. For a VitaminWater spot shot at the Cleveland Convention Center earlier this month—SI was granted a behind-the-scenes look at the set—James played a defense lawyer arguing before a jury. Before the cameras rolled, he practiced his lines with his girlfriend, Savannah Brinson, who corrected him when he mispronounced the word versus. "It's versus, not verse," Brinson told him.

"Wait, so when it's vs. it's versus?" asked James, who then turned to his personal assistant, Randy Mims. "Randy, so when you say it's Cavs verse whoever, what's that?"

"It's versus," said Mims. "I say it wrong."

After arriving an hour late, James, who hadn't rehearsed, picked up his lines quickly and was nearly flawless during the four-hour shoot. ("You should seriously consider acting in a movie," a crew member told him. "Be careful of the genre you choose, though.") Acting is becoming old hat for James, who has starred in several Nike, Coke and Microsoft ads. This 60-second spot, which will air during the NBA playoffs, is his first for VitaminWater, which is owned by Coca-Cola. "It's getting normal to me, but I never wanted to be an actor," says James. "I just try to be myself and have fun."

After the shoot James volunteered to sign autographs and pose for pictures with the rest of the cast and crew, which had been instructed not to bother him with such requests. "I know you guys got more work to do, but can we all take one picture in front?" James asked. He then shook hands with everyone on set. Said one extra: "Class act."