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June 4, 2016

LeBron James

Oakland, California: Practice Day

Q. In what way do you tie the avenue for athletes to become global icons to Muhammad Ali?
LEBRON JAMES: Can you kind of clarify that question a little bit more?

Q. Do you at all see a sense of debt or maybe see the groundwork that he laid for athletes to become global brands, the world renowned that comes for people in your position today, to what degree do you tie that to Muhammad Ali?
LEBRON JAMES: First of all, my condolences goes to the Ali family. Rest his soul to the goat. I'm not sure I'm going to answer your question exactly how you wanted to, but so many thoughts come to mind when I think about the man who passed away yesterday, what he represented.

As a kid I gravitated towards him because he was a champion, but I only knew as a kid of what he did inside the ring. As I got older and I started to be more knowledgeable about the sport, about sport in general and about the guys who paved the way for guys like myself, I understood that he is the greatest of all time, and he was the greatest of all time because of what he did outside of the ring.

Obviously, we knew how great of a boxer he was, but I think that was only 20% of what made him as great as he was. What he stood for, I mean, it's a guy who basically had to give up a belt and relish everything that he had done because of what he believed in and ended up in jail because of his beliefs. It's a guy who stood up for so many different things throughout the times where it was so difficult for African-Americans to even walk in the streets.

For an athlete like myself today, without Muhammad Ali, I wouldn't be sitting up here talking in front of you guys. I wouldn't be able to walk in restaurants. I wouldn't be able to go anywhere where blacks weren't allowed back in those days because of guys like Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, Lew Alcindor, Jackie Robinson, and the list goes on and on.

So when an icon like Muhammad Ali passes away, it's just very emotional. It's also gratifying to know that that guy, one man, would sacrifice so much of his individual life knowing that it would better the next generation of men and women after him.

So today I can sit and go to China and make trips to China and all over the world and people know my name and know my face. I give all credit to Muhammad Ali because he was the first icon. He is the goat. He is the greatest of all time, and it has zero to do with his accomplishments inside the ring. So hopefully I was able to cover it.

Q. Again a little bit on Ali, you touched on the courage he had to show to take stands. You've had some taste of that. You've made your feelings known on some pretty touchy issues. What is that like to kind of put yourself out there like that and should athletes do more of it? Some do, some don't. Michael made his -- he made it a point of not doing that at times.
LEBRON JAMES: I just think it's in you. If it's in you, then it will be brought to light. If it's not, then it won't. I would never compare myself to Muhammad Ali because I never had to go through what those guys had to go through back in those times. But in my own daily struggles, as I continue to say, growing up in the inner city, being a statistic that was supposed to go the other way and I'm able to sit up here today and knowing that I was a guy who beat the odds, it's just you never take for granted the path and the guys who just every single day just struggled in their individual lives and everything they had to go through on a daily basis for us, for a guy like myself.

Yes, I've had some adverse moments in my life and, yes, I've had to deal with a lot of things as a professional, and I've spoken up on a lot of issues that other athletes may not speak upon, but I feel it's my duty to carry on the legacy of the guys who did it before me.

Q. LeBron, you were one of the players that spoke out about the injustice about Trayvon Martin when you were a member of the Miami Heat. Can you talk about the legacy, the type of legacy that Muhammad Ali will leave on this Earth?
LEBRON JAMES: I think what's unfortunate sometimes where some of our greats and some of our role models and some of our leaders is that we don't appreciate them until they're gone, and I think that's unfortunate. But I think in Muhammad's case, I hope we were able to appreciate him from the time that he was set or stepped foot on Earth. And along his path from a kid all the way to a teenager all the way to an adult and to a father and so on and so on, his legacy will obviously live on.

It's funny, last night we were back at the hotel, and a good friend of mine, a role model friend of mine who actually grew up in the same hometown as Muhammad Ali and kind of around the same age, he put on last night, on the TV where we were, the Thrilla in Manila, the fight between Ali and Frazier. It was just an unbelievable pound-for-pound slugfest, but just two greats just seizing the opportunity and seizing the moment to be in it and do what they love to do.

It sent a lot of emotions through all of us just in that room watching it. Like I said, I had an opportunity to meet him a few times, and for him to be able to fight the disease that he had for so long, I think three decades he had that disease for, and still be able to recognize and do the things that he wanted to do and live on, he's a powerful man.

Q. We appreciate your words. But changing a little bit the subject and going back to the series. When it comes to a situation to fight back, let's forget about the numbers. Let's forget about the stats. What is the recipe for success going into tomorrow's game?
LEBRON JAMES: Well, I think the recipe for success and a basketball game are two different things. But I think for tomorrow's game we have to be more sharp than we were in Game 1. And that's not saying we weren't sharp. We played some really good basketball, but he made too many mistakes. As I stated after the game on Thursday night, 17 turnovers for 25 points, doesn't matter if you hold Steph and Klay under 10, doesn't matter if Shaun Livingston gets 20 and Iguodala and all those guys played great or even if they didn't play so great, you cannot give up 25 points off turnovers on the road, especially against such a great team. It's not a good ingredient for success. So we have to do a better job of that.

Q. Kyrie was already a pretty good player when you got here. In what ways the last two years and what direction have you kind of tried to push him to become a more complete player? And where do you think he is in that process?
LEBRON JAMES: I just wanted to be someone to help him get to a point -- I think his talent has always been there. We all saw that, since he was drafted to Cleveland and his first few years with the team. What I wanted to -- once I came back, I wanted to see if I could help him grow as a leader, help him grow as a basketball player, help him grow and understanding how important and how fragile these opportunities are.

And he's just shown growth every single day. He's a young man still. I think the kid's only 24 years old. He's still a young man, but he's accepted the challenge of being much more vocal, much more hands on as a leader of the team. He's the quarterback with the plays, with the playbook on his wrist. When you see the quarterback kind of -- you know. I'm kind of the offensive coordinator and T. Lue is the head coach and he's the quarterback and he has to go out and make the right reads.

The kid has grown in the two years that I've been here, so far.

Q. He was a scorer, had to be a scorer early on when you get here. Did you try to emphasize passing more, ball movement more?
LEBRON JAMES: He's still a scorer. That's what he does. He gets buckets. That's how he says it. He can score with the best of them in our league. And you never want to take that aggression away from him. As a team, we know as a team, not just Kyrie, we know as a full 15-man roster, when the ball is moving and the ball has energy behind it, we're all in good rhythm. And that's part of the reason why we're here again.

Q. Staying on Kyrie, a lot has been made about this series, the matchup between you and Steph Curry, but he actually plays the same position as Steph. Have you had conversations with him or counsel with him about embracing that challenge, that matchup, but, again, as you mentioned, kind of staying in the team game?
LEBRON JAMES: At the end of the day it's not about myself or Steph or Klay or Kyrie or Draymond and the list goes on and on. It's about the Warriors and the Cavs. You win a championship, we all don't get an individual trophy, you know (laughing). You all get your individual rings. But at the end of the day, it's about a team. This is one of the greatest ultimate sport team games. So it's not about that.

I think as an individual, when you're going against the best, your competitive side automatically kicks in. So no matter who is across from you, you want to be able to hold your end of the bargain against the guy across from you. So that's just competitive nature. I think everyone knows that. But we don't come into a game saying, okay, it's Kyrie versus Steph. It's Swish versus Klay. This is our game plan, they have their game plan, and it's who executes it the best.

Q. What's your relationship with Dan Gilbert like this year and since you've been back in Cleveland?
LEBRON JAMES: I think it's been very good. At the end of the day, we have the same goal, and that is to bring a championship to Cleveland. And that's all that matters. I think he's the owner of the team. I'm just one of the players and one of the 15 guys. So I'm one of the lower guys on the totem pole, so I just do my job. I'm just here to work.

Q. You're one of the lower guys on the totem pole?
LEBRON JAMES: Yeah, just tall.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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