This story first appeared in the Feb. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
The janitor at the Akron, Ohio, office complex that houses the LeBron James Family Foundation and LRMR, the sports management company headed by the NBA superstar, eyes me warily. We’re in the elevator, though I don’t know what floor I’m supposed to go to. There are signs for medical offices, investment firms, a real estate company. But nothing for the foundation or LRMR. “We took it down,” explains the janitor. “Too many people peeking in the windows.” Having established that I am not an overzealous fan, he presses the button for the third floor. “Down here on your right,” he says, gesturing at the deserted hallway. “Last door.”
I see two impressionistic silk-screen portraits of James hanging in the lobby of a dark, seemingly empty office. More camouflage. When I ring the doorbell (a sign instructs: “press hard”), a cheerful woman emerges from the shadows. “Sorry,” she says, after she unlocks the door. “We like to keep it dark.”
James isn’t even here (I am taking a tour of his office in advance of a meeting with him the next day). But several pairs of his signature Nike sneakers — his deal with the shoe giant nets him $20 million a year — sit in display cases. The nameplate on his desk reads King James. I have been talking to his adviser Adam Mendelsohn about this interview for several months. There have been multiple postponements, not least of which was the delay caused by his return last summer to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a $42.2 million, two-year deal that made global headlines.