Editor's note: When the Cavs' history buff said he wanted to see Glory Road, the soon-to-be-released Disney movie about the 1966 NCAA championship run by Texas Western's all-black starting five, the Mag pulled some strings with its parent company to get him a private screening and a sit-down with several players from the game. We took the opportunity to get LeBron to talk about his game, too.
I think it's important to know the history of the game. That comes from knowing that I'm not going to help its evolution just by playing. You can't be successful in this game if you don't know who got you to this point. Unfortunately, a lot of people my age and younger don't know the history of basketball. If a kid comes up to me and asks me a question about it, I want to be prepared to answer with some knowledge. I want to be able to tie together the past, present and future. That's why I was interested in the Texas Western team. I knew about their story long before I watched Glory Road.
I'll admit that watching that film and seeing the importance of winning the NCAA Tournament makes me wander off sometimes and think of what it would have been like if I had gone to college. But I don't have any regrets. I know I made the right decision. In fact, Jerry Bruckheimer told me one of the things he hoped to accomplish with the movie was to get guys to understand the abuse those Texas Western players fought through to blaze a trail for guys in the NBA today. He understands they made it possible for more guys to play professionally instead of just on the playground. He said Pat Riley told him Magic Johnson once said, "If David Lattin hadn't dunked on you, I wouldn't be standing here running your offense." It's funny, but there's some truth to that. So I realize the guys on that team are the reason I'm where I am today.
I get to do things like help create commercials. I love my new Nike commercials; my favorite is the one about the quadruple-double. I had a lot of input into The LeBrons. I wanted to show more of my personality, and those are the four ways I act: the player, the kid, the businessman and the wise old man. I act like him a lot when I'm home. I just kind of ad-libbed everything. The acting was fun. And for the record, that is me dancing.
But to see all the things I get to do and the recognition I get because of basketball, and to know that those guys had to wait 40 years for people to notice them, is just crazy. It's almost like some people didn't know black people were on the face of the earth. It's disappointing that they had to wait 40 years to be recognized, but I guess better late than never. To see the way they approached the game and the way they were able to carry themselves through terrible times definitely affects the way I carry myself. I take the game seriously because I'm trying to carry on the legacy that great players before me left.
I don't try to pattern my game after anybody's, but if I had to talk about similarities, I'd look at Penny Hardaway when he was in Orlando. He was a 6'7" point guard. He had flair, he could pass, he'd dunk on you and he could shoot jumpers. Then, I'd look at Oscar Robertson and Magic and the way they were able to dominate games. I don't say I'm going to try to be those guys, but I can see a little bit of my game in each of them. And I'm not really concerned about surpassing them in history. I just hope that one day people will think I was one of the best players to ever play in this league. Ever.
I know that'll take titles, though. When I think about the best players in the league, I think of the guys who've won championships, guys like Tim Duncan, Kobe and Shaq. Of all of them, I like Kobe. His knowledge of the game and his killer instinct are what make him so tough. He's great with the ball and without the ball, and the things he can
do offensively are kind of unbelievable. I don't think I have an instinct like Kobe, where I just want to kill everybody. But I do want to be the best player on the court every time I step out there.
It's all about competing, about trying to be the best. It's also important to me to make the team I'm on now the best. I don't want to go ring-chasing, as I call it; you know, going to a team that's already pretty established and trying to win a ring with them. I want to stay with the Cavs and build a champion. And I feel like we're on our way.
Part of being considered the best is having rivalries. I don't have any at this point. Rivalries start in the playoffs. I tell you what, I'll be happy for it to start. I haven't been a part of the playoffs yet, but I will be this year. Then we'll see if a rivalry
develops. People try to make rivals out of me and Dwyane Wade, but D-Wade is one of my best friends in the league. I've got the utmost respect for the way he handles himself, the way he plays and the way he's become a leader for his franchise.
Right now it's important I establish my credentials as our leader. When you come into the league, you think it's all basketball, but basketball is only about 10 percent to 20 percent of what it takes to be in the NBA. You've got the off-the-court obligations and distractions, you've got the on-the-court things, you've got the media. Now that I understand that, I'm 10 times the leader I was the past two seasons. I'm the type who can lead by example and I can also lead by speaking up. When I need to get vocal, I get vocal. I have no problem speaking up and letting my teammates know what the deal is.
But for them to listen, I can't just talk. I have to show them I'm dedicated to improving as a player. I feel like if I improve certain aspects of my game, our team automatically will improve, so I was extremely motivated last summer to get better. I knew I couldn't come back the same player I was last year, and I put in a ton of time on my outside shooting. Last year, I felt defenders were slacking off me too much, just playing me to drive. I shot jumpers over the summer until my shoulders started to hurt. Now my jump shot's a lot better. I also worked on my lateral quickness to help my D.
Missing the playoffs the past two seasons was the motivation. I've been used to being an automatic winner, just going onto the court knowing no team could beat us. But my first year in the league, I didn't feel that way. Now I'm at a point where I feel like every time we play, we're going to win. I'm not saying I know we're going to win a championship this year. That takes time. It took Jordan seven years, Shaq eight. If we keep getting better, I don't think I'll have to wait eight years.
It's funny: the years fly by so fast that you can get to Year 3 and be like, wow, it seems like my rookie year. But you know what they say: great things come to those who are patient.
Chris Broussard covers the NBA for ESPN The Magazine and writes an NBA Blog for ESPN.com. Visit Chris' Blog archive for more of his NBA reporting.