NEW YORK -- LeBron James’ visits to Madison Square Garden are usually show-stopping events, as he averages more points at MSG than any other arena he’s played in during his 12-year career.
Yet, James and his NBA All-Star counterparts were upstaged in New York last week by the “Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special,” which aired at the same time as the All-Star Game and garnered a 14.2 household rating on NBC versus a 5.5 rating for the basketball exhibition on TNT and TBS, according to the 56 markets monitored by Nielsen.
James had ties to both extravaganzas as he hosted the season opener for the 'SNL’s' 33rd season on Sept. 29, 2007, with musical guest Kanye West.
James, back in the Big Apple just a week later for his Cleveland Cavaliers to play the New York Knicks on Sunday, said he may have missed the anniversary, but he wants to get back on the famous Studio 8H stage.
“I had an unbelievable time,” James said after Cavs practice Saturday. “Hopefully someday maybe I can do it again. It's a long week, man. People don't understand how long that week is. They go through the whole process and things and it's very serious, too. Obviously it's funny, but it's serious when you go through the skits every day, you're working every day. I had an unbelievable time.”
While James has yet to become a repeat host, he did work with former 'SNL' cast member Bill Hader on the Judd Apatow and Amy Schumer feature “Trainwreck” that he filmed last summer. James played himself, only a version of himself who is best friends with Hader.
Hader was on the show when James hosted and was also on the sidelines for much of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 2012 playoff run which resulted in a Finals loss to James’ Miami Heat and the first championship of James’ career.
Despite their history serving as a comfort zone, acting in a feature-length movie was still a challenge for James.
“I was pretty nervous,” James said. “It was my first time being in a blockbuster film and actually having a major role in the film. I was pretty nervous but once they said, 'Action,' I guess I just zoned out and just do what I do when you say, 'Action,' I guess.”
Apatow glowed about James to “The Hollywood Reporter,” last week saying, “We tested the movie, and he gets laughter as big as anyone ... LeBron is a very strong actor, and he has a fantastic sense of humor. We do a lot of improvisation, and he was really good at it.”
While the four-time MVP is used to receiving accolades for his work on the hardwood, being celebrated for the silver screen is something new.
“All the reviews coming my way have been pretty good,” James said. “Everybody has been kind of surprised at what I was able to accomplish in front of the camera. I really don't get involved in it too much or think I did great or not. I kind of just do my job and move on.”
“I don’t go off nobody,” James said. “I do my own thing. Obviously I love ‘Saturday Night Live.’ I watched it a lot. I still watch it today, but I didn’t go off nobody else’s thing. I just try to go out and just be myself.”
Include former Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown, perhaps the most successful athlete turned actor in the history of film, as another name James isn’t looking to follow.
“Nah man, I’m going to be myself,” James said. “I don’t need to be anybody else but myself.”
During the NBA’s rigorous regular season, the self James assumes is that of a dedicated basketball player.
“I understand what’s important,” he said. “I know what my No. 1 priority is and that’s being here and playing this game and playing for my teammates. So, that comes first, second and third, when it comes to that side of the game. But that’s why I have a great team outside of basketball to make sure they take care of everything and shove things away from me that either don’t need to come to me that’s minor or some of the major stuff I hear about, but I’ve been in this league long enough. I know how to prioritize and know what priority No. 1 is.”
And somewhere down that list of priorities he may find time to reprise his role as the gold jumpsuit wearing “Alexander” on SNL.