LeBron, hungry for his own title, happy in Cleveland

Updated: June 21, 2006, 4:23 PM ET
Associated Press

CLEVELAND -- Now that good pal Dwyane Wade has won an NBA title, LeBron James is even more driven to get his first.

LeBron James
AP Photo/Jamie-Andrea YanakThe Cavs hope LeBron keeps his roots firmly in Cleveland.

"It just makes me hungrier," James said Wednesday at the groundbreaking for a $4.7 million housing project on the city's east side that he and his business team are partially funding. "The best team won it this year, D-Wade and the Miami Heat. But the NBA doesn't stop in one year.

"I've got a long time to get mine."

It's clearer than ever that James wants to win his first championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

On July 1, the club will offer him a five-year, $75 million maximum contract extension. That date has been circled on the Cavs' calendar since they drafted the 21-year-old first overall in 2003.

James is convinced he'll be in Cleveland for a long time.

"I'm very happy here with our team and I'm very excited about our future," he said. "I'm confident we'll get something done. I've got confidence in the organization and what we've done together."

During the announcement of his latest business venture, James was handed a shovel for a photo opportunity to show his commitment to rebuilding an urban area of Cleveland.

The Cavaliers can only hope it also symbolized that their superstar is digging in for a long time.

NBA rules prevent general manager Danny Ferry from publicly commenting on James' contract situation, but it's no secret the team is eager to get beyond July 1.

"It's great that LeBron is showing his commitment toward Northeast Ohio and the city," Ferry said at the ceremony. "The organization is proud of him."

James is proud of Wade, named finals MVP after leading the Heat to four straight wins over the Dallas Mavericks.

Following Miami's 95-92 series-clinching win in Game 6 on Tuesday, James spoke to his jubilant friend in Dallas.

"He was out of his mind, and he doesn't touch alcohol," James said. "I'm excited for him. I'm very happy for him. He's one of my best friends in the whole world. Hopefully, I'll get there one day and he can be excited for me."

James averaged 31.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.6 assists this season while leading the Cavs into the playoffs for the first time since 1998. He was just as good in the postseason (30.8, 8.1 and 5.8) as Cleveland beat Washington in the first round before losing in seven games to Detroit.

There will be a new road block for James next season: the NBA champions.

"We're happy for the Heat," he said. "But at the end of the day it's another step for us [Cavaliers]. We want to get better."

As for the housing project, James and three friends and business partners are among the investors in the 18-unit project that will feature two- and three-bedroom, 2,000-square-foot townhouses expected to sell for $265,000 and $325,000 each.

"We're very excited about refurbishing and bringing great things to what we call the hood. Everybody else may call it the city but we call it the hood," James said to cheers at a symbolic groundbreaking for the project. "That's where we grew up at and we never ever had an opportunity like this."

The homes will overlook the scenic Rockefeller Park near the Glenville neighborhood east of downtown.

The lakeside area, once home to the city's most affluent families, is in the beginning stages of a redevelopment after race riots in 1968 caused widespread arson and looting that chased businesses and residents away for nearly 40 years.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press