PORTER: LeBron swarmed off and on court

Todd Porter

There is no excuse for what LeBron James did Thursday in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Sure, you say, he was double- and triple-teamed. Sure, the San Antonio Spurs focused, almost exclusively, on the 22-year-old Cavalier star.

That’s nothing to what LeBron goes through in a normal day. He’s used to being swarmed, on and off the court. People cover him better than the best defensive team in the NBA, and the Spurs held him to just 14 points in Game 1.

Imagine what it must be like to be LeBron James. You have all that money and can’t spend it on something normal.

Like lunch. Or a walk to the mall. Coffee at Starbucks. No wonder he’s putting in a barber shop and bowling alley in that 35,500-square-foot home.

When LeBron leaves the hotel, he isn’t walking out in sunglasses and a ballcap. Until they invent something to chop his legs in half, LeBron isn’t tricking anyone. It’s hard not to notice a 6-foot-7 manchild who glows charisma.

The Cavs have been in town since Tuesday. LeBron set foot outside the team’s hotel for the first time Friday night.

San Antonio has a beautiful downtown and a Riverwalk. The river snakes through downtown with shops and restaurants scattered on both sides.

LeBron will have to read about it.

But LeBron doesn’t let his celebrity imprison him. He leads as normal a life as possible.

He’ll take his son to the mall. He’ll take his fiancée to dinner. But that’s back in Cleveland.

If LeBron decides to go shopping, it’s like half-a-president is on the move. There is a security team in place that follows.

Would you switch shoes with LeBron? Would you want the $150 million in endorsement deals (his basketball salary pays taxes on his endorsements) in exchange for no anonymity?

“I’ll take his shoe contract any day,” forward Drew Gooden said. “I don’t know if I’d want to go through what he has to go through every day.”

LeBron says he wouldn’t change a thing about his life.

“Have you seen him walk down the street?” Gooden said. “Man, it’s like Michael Jackson. It’s crazy.

“Not only all that, but there is a certain standard he has set that he has to live up to on the court. When he plays, he has to hit that standard every night.”

He has to be the best player on a floor full of the best players in the world. Money buys a lot of things, but it doesn’t buy peace. Unless he leases an island to take a vacation.

Imagine you’re LeBron. The season is over, and you just want to get away. Where?

While talking about how LeBron navigates from point A to point B, a Cavs media relations type is interrupted by a TV reporter from China. She wants 10 minutes with LeBron because “China loves LeBron, and LeBron loves China.”

The Cavs’ employee politely takes her business card.

LeBron could do 10 minutes of one-on-one interviews until his career ends and not have time to play a basketball game.

So, Eric Snow, you want to switch with LeBron?

“I have no interest in that,” Snow said, laughing.

Damon Jones doesn’t, either, but it depends on the day.

“Today?” Jones said, hinting at LeBron’s off night Thursday. “No way. Not today.

“But to whom much is given, much is expected.”

LeBron handles his (over) exposure very well. The NBA and Cavs make sure he is available to the media every day during the Finals. And sometimes that’s not enough.

After his press conference, LeBron went to relax in the seats at the AT&T Center. You’d have thought Paris Hilton was making a perp walk.

At least 30 cameras are filming him — get this — listening to his iPod. Must see TV.

“I’m good friends with Michael Jordan,” Spurs veteran Michael Finley said. “It's different exposure for Michael than it is for LeBron, but if Michael can handle it, LeBron can.”

When practice ended Friday, LeBron called a friend on his cell phone. He made plans to go to the movies.

He didn’t rent the theater. Just walked up and bought a ticket like anyone else. Of course, he bought tickets for his security detail. They did a better job keeping people away than his teammates did a few nights ago.

Reach Canton Repository sports writer Todd Porter at (330) 580-8340 or e-mail: todd.porter@cantonrep.com