LeBron James NBA MVP
After an eight-day layoff the Cavaliers forward returns to action on Wednesday for the Eastern Conference finals against the Magic.
Dan Patrick: How much fun are you having?
LeBron James: A lot. We have 14 guys who just love to play the game. It makes it fun when you have guys like that around you.
DP: The Cavs have been criticized for celebrating too much. As their leader, how do you feel about that?
LJ: We have a good time playing. We don't disrespect the game in no manner, in no way.
DP: What's the next pregame skit you guys are going to pull off?
LJ: With this layoff, we've had a lot of time to come up with ideas.
DP: I was thinking Soul Train line dancing. Or maybe you just go out with a firm handshake for each teammate.
LJ: That's nice. Straight business, I like that. I'm going to put that in my pregame rituals book.
DP: Which would mean more: making a game-winning shot or dishing off for a game-winning shot?
LJ: Passing to a teammate and him hitting the game-winner. That means I've drawn the defense or drawn a double team and gotten a guy open. And to see a teammate succeed is the ultimate for me.
DP: When you were a kid out shooting jumpers, game on the line, clock ticking down—who were you?
LJ: I was Michael Jordan.
DP: We recently had the 20th anniversary of Jordan hitting the jumper over Craig Ehlo [to win a playoff series against the Cavs]. You were four at the time—do you remember it?
LJ: No, not at all. I had my little tyke's hoop. I was hitting jumpers over everything in the living room. I think what Jordan did to Craig Ehlo was dead wrong. For him to go up and act like he was going to take the jumper, and then wait for Craig Ehlo to [fly by] and then shoot it, I think that was dead wrong. Ehlo was a good player.
DP: Have you ever felt sorry for a defender?
LJ: I've felt a little bit sorry, but my competitive nature takes over that.
DP: Finish this sentence: If we win the NBA title ...
LJ: It would be the biggest accomplishment in my career. It would be one of the greatest achievements in Cleveland history. I'm looking forward to the challenge.
DP: If we don't win the NBA championship ...
LJ: It's more room for improvement.
DP: Build your Dream Team for me. Who's with you?
LJ: I'm going to take Magic Johnson at the 1, Michael Jordan at the 2, myself at the 3, Kevin Garnett at the 4. At the 5 ... Shaquille O'Neal.
DP: Why did you hesitate?
LJ: Because I like Kareem too. But Shaq is more intimidating. If I got into a fight, I know Shaq would be right there to help.
DP: Why not Kobe?
LJ: Over Jordan? I love Kobe Bryant, but this is my dream. Michael Jordan is the guy I grew up watching. I even wanted to put Oscar Robertson in there before Jordan, but my dream just couldn't let me do that.
DP: You know this question's coming: Would winning a title make it easier to leave Cleveland or harder to leave Cleveland?
LJ: It's hard to answer that question. I'm happy in Cleveland. I don't have any plans on going anywhere. These fans have done everything to support me. I'm excited about being here.
Now Hear This
Listen to the podcasts at danpatrick.com/interviews
1. Magic assistant Patrick Ewing discusses Dwight Howard.
2. Hall of Famer George Brett talks about Roger Clemens.
THE FINE PRINT: Astronauts made repairs to the giant Hubble Space Telescope. Unfortunately, it still can't find Versus.
While a LeBron-versus-Kobe matchup would be the most anticipated head-to-head meeting in an NBA Finals since Jordan-Magic in 1991, I certainly don't think it's the end of the world if it doesn't happen. If Denver beats L.A., seeing the Finals go to what has always been a football town is a great story. And if Orlando prolongs Cleveland's title drought, it adds intrigue to LeBron James's future. A superstar showdown certainly makes for great theater—but so does seeing new blood.
Ask the Expert
Pete Rose knows what it's like to be shunned by the Hall of Fame, and it's not something he'd wish on anyone. "I'm willing to give a guy a second chance," Rose said. "Would I vote for A-Rod [for the Hall] right now? I would. Manny Ramirez? He's not quite there, but he'll get there." But Rose isn't willing to give all PED users a free pass. "If someone was juicing and broke my [hits] record," he said, "I'd be pissed."
Line of the Week
Bob Costas is having a difficult time believing Manny Ramirez's assertion that he was taking hCG for what he called a "personal health issue." Costas told me: "Unless Manny Ramirez delivers triplets in November, I'm not buying his story."
ILLUSTRATION BY KAGAN MCLEOD
ELSA/GETTY IMAGES (ALSTON)
PHIL MCCARTEN/REUTERS (COSTAS)
KEVIN MAZUR/WIREIMAGE.COM (JAMES)