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Photog who shot LeBron James for Nike says LeBron showed up with masseuse, would not allow direct conversation

Dec 13, 2011, 10:03 AM EDT

Miami Heat's Wade and James talk with team president Riley after the Heat's first day of practice in Miami Reuters

LeBron James says he’s trying to rehabilitate his image — I would have opted for rehabilitating my post game, but that’s me — this season, as he told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols in an interview last week. But also last week came this piece by in Sports Illustrated by photographer Walter Iooss Jr., in which he tells some great war stories about various famous athletes (don’t miss the one on Barry Bonds).

Also of particular note was his story of doing a photo shoot with LeBron.

I first photographed LeBron James in 2003, when he was a rookie in Cleveland. He was pretty raw as a teenager; he didn’t have any of the smoothed edges he has now. When I shot him six years later, in 2009, the difference was amazing. He walked in like a king that day, and he took over that room. And not only physically, although he was massive then. I’ve never seen an athlete look like that. He was muscular, charming, articulate, the prince of hoops. He couldn’t have been more of an ambassador for the game.

Times change, and sadly, LeBron became a villain to many after The Decision. I’ve seen a lot of entourages, but none like his. In July 2010 I got an assignment from Nike to shoot LeBron right after his TV special announcing his move to the Heat. We rented the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, where the Lakers and the Clippers used to play, and there were 53 people on my crew — including hair and makeup artists, production people, a stylist. I had $10,000 in Hollywood lighting. It was huge. When LeBron arrived, it was as if Nelson Mandela had come in. Six or seven blacked-out Escalades pulled up, a convoy. LeBron had bodyguards and his masseuse. His deejay was already there, blasting. This for a photo shoot that was going to last an hour, tops.

This is how crazy it was: I wasn’t even allowed to talk directly to LeBron. There was a liaison, someone from Amar’e Stoudemire’s family. I would say to him, “O.K., have LeBron drive right,” and then he’d turn to LeBron and say, “LeBron, go right.”

LeBron had guards in the portals on the mezzanine level, talking into their hands. Really, what was going to happen? And then at the end of the shoot they all got in the Escalades. My God, I’ve been around Michael Jordan, but with him nothing even came close to this. Unimaginable.

I know a guy who worked as a sound engineer who said that when he signed contracts to appear in concert, Van Morrison had a stipulation that no stage workers were allowed to make direct eye contact with him before the show. My friend always swore that was true, but I had my doubts. But the human ego is a funny thing, apparently. If you feed it too much, it grows to monstrous proportions, and can turn on you.

Good luck, LeBron, in your quest to regain some of your humanity.

The Education Of Walter Iooss Jr. [Sports Illustrated]

  1. chargerdillon - Dec 13, 2011 at 1:08 PM

    Well to be fair, when the entire nation is calling him a selfish jerk for going to Miami, I don’t blame him for wanting to surround himself with people on his side.

    He went from stadium to stadium hearing louder boo’s than any other player, all because HE MADE HIS OWN DECISIONS.

    Lebron James is a human being, and like all human beings he gets the same rights we have. People want to hate him for being ambitious, people want to hate him because others want to prop him up and make money on his success.

    He’s a man, he’s a father, he’s a basketball player. That’s it.

    • Dirty D Fo - Dec 13, 2011 at 1:36 PM

      He’s also a ****, a **** fiend and an a******.

      • progress2011 - Dec 13, 2011 at 2:55 PM

        WHAT !

      • glenngr12 - Dec 14, 2011 at 4:56 PM

        It is idiots, like you that he needs security. The white people in Cleveland went crazy.

    • ThatGuy - Dec 13, 2011 at 1:41 PM

      No one outside of Cleveland fans hate him for leaving the Cavs. They hate him because he made a specticule of himself by going on TV and creating a special to do it as opposed to doing it like every other basketball player in history has done it.

      • glenngr12 - Dec 14, 2011 at 5:00 PM

        In hindsight he made a mistake doing the show. He was trying to raise money for the kids. My son works at the Boys and Girls in Akron. Lebron showed up there recently and it was about the kids.Not that he isn’t cocky but, it was about the kids. The money that was raised was well worth it.

    • progress2011 - Dec 13, 2011 at 2:53 PM

      Man, don’t you know the entire city of Cleveland had all their financial hopes, marketability as a legitimate city, politics, religion ….and Oh Yeah a Championship , all placed on the shoulders of LBJ !!!

      When he left a vacuum the size of Mars was turned on and the entire city was slapped back to the reality that Cleveland is one of the WORST cities in the Union ( graduation rates, crime, unemployment etc,etc,etc ) !

      They will still be hating on this man, long after he has retired from B-Ball.

      I think it’s crazy….ahahahahahaha!!!

    • johninpa - Dec 14, 2011 at 11:40 AM

      I don’t believe the entire nation is calling him a jerk for leaving Cleveland, I think we are calling him a jerk because that is how he acts. I can’t blame him for leaving a team he feels can’t win a championship, or for better money. I can blame him for rubbing the people of Cleveland’s noses in it, and for talking about the number of titles they will win before they ever play a game. He could demonstrate a little humility, let his game speak for him, and maybe get a little good PR through some acts of public service.

      The NBA and NFL would do well to offer some mandatory classes to rookies, and some refresher classes to veterans, on being humble and giving back to their community. I’m enjoying the NHL a whole lot more these days as the players generally can speak in whole sentences, place team before themselves, and give back to the community.

      • glenngr12 - Dec 14, 2011 at 5:03 PM

        He is giving back to the city he was born in. You may not know it check what he has done for Akron.

      • johninpa - Dec 14, 2011 at 5:38 PM

        Glenn, I took a few minutes to check, and he is helping school children in Akron – a lot of kids with substantial contributions and spending some time with them. I hope he can learn from experiences like that, and gain the humility that could gain him back the fans he lost with the “decision” and the inability to lead his teams to the NBA championship.

    • dalep526 - Dec 14, 2011 at 3:16 PM

      He’s a man, a father, a basketball player…but he’s not a husband to his children’s mother. Typical black man. I’ll screw you and you can bear me children, but I won’t marry you because I’m a coward!

      • glenngr12 - Dec 14, 2011 at 5:07 PM

        You are a fukin idiot I bet your daddy hasn’t done the things for you that Lebron has done for his kids. Your daddy don’t have Lebron’s money. Quit being a loser and hata. You idiot racist.

  2. lunasceiling - Dec 13, 2011 at 3:11 PM

    Gosh what a surprise: BronBron is a self-absorbed d-bag with a massive entourage of sycophants, to which a mere photographer is not permitted to speak directly. All because he’s fairly good (but not good enough to have a ring…) at a second-tier sport. What-f*cking-EVER.

  3. goforthanddie - Dec 13, 2011 at 3:37 PM

    There’s a word for people of that race who act like that. It’s a horrible word that should never be used. Sadly, that word describes leb perfectly.

    • koufaxmitzvah - Dec 13, 2011 at 4:41 PM

      There is NO EXCUSE for racism. It is NOT funny. NOR is it poignant.

      If your entire point is that you’re too big of a man to use kkkrappy terminology, but that you are somehow smart enough to use subtlety to point out your expressions, then, Sir, YOU are an idiotic and doltish, grade-A dipstick.

      • goforthanddie - Dec 13, 2011 at 4:50 PM

        I wasn’t being racist. Did I accuse every black person of being an unbelievably arrogant yet completely stupid bitch? Nope, just one. As for that particular word: If the shoe fits…It’s not my fault he doesn’t know how to act, blame his mom and Delonte for that.

      • koufaxmitzvah - Dec 14, 2011 at 1:08 PM

        “There’s a word for people of that race who act like that.”

        You’re right. That’s suc ha polite way of inferring racist terminology of which you are too good a person to actually say….

        What a hero.

    • davidly - Dec 13, 2011 at 4:53 PM

      Yeah? The word means “lazy” and slave owners had the audacity to use it on their slaves, and folks kept using it during lynchings and the Jim Crow era, right up to today, where people use the excuse that “they say it to each other all the time” just so that they can say what they are dying to with nary a care about who it might hurt (do we punch eight-year-olds, because they punch each other on the playground all the time?)

      Oh, but wait. Not you, goforthanddle. You’re considerate. A real class act. Either that or maybe the person responsible for making the biggest low-life comment I’ve yet to read on this forum. That’s saying a lot.

      • goforthanddie - Dec 13, 2011 at 6:32 PM

        Blah blah jackoff. Some people call a spade a spade (Oh no, that’s racist too! Wait, no it’s not, but you’ll bitch anyway). If I stepped on your toes, move your feet.

    • davidly - Dec 14, 2011 at 5:39 AM

      It’s remarkable that your tiny brain can hold simultaneously “a word that should never be used” and “describes leb perfectly”. You are so brilliantly ironic, I am sure.

      Your convenient, oh-so put-upon strawman: having to suffer the horribly unjustified accusation of racism (ie. something not present in my comment), is a further manifestation of that narrow mind: Bigotry is your own cross to bear, but you’re unlikely to realize its origin, let alone acknowledge it.

      Now, hurry up and see how many “thumbs downs” you can give me. It suits your personality.

    • glenngr12 - Dec 14, 2011 at 5:09 PM

      Why make this racial. Just because you are loser and will never have his money. If he would throw his sweaty shorts you would fight your mother for them.

  4. dirkified - Dec 13, 2011 at 4:16 PM

    not even a HS education.. ton of $$, you would act like an idiot too..

  5. toosano - Dec 13, 2011 at 7:51 PM

    Who cares, he’s a dode.

  6. concernedcitizen001 - Dec 13, 2011 at 8:39 PM

    Wow, what a DIVA. I hope she has a long prosperous career