LeBron James downplays his value
MILWAUKEE -- LeBron James disagrees with NBA commissioner David Stern that interest in his free agency last summer brought more fans to the league.
James said there are so many great players in the league that he didn't think he individually had anything to do with what Stern said were better TV ratings.
"I think it's great," James said. "Another NBA season, another great year for everyone. Everyone that's a part of it. You've seen fans love the game of basketball once again.
There's too many players, there's so many great players I don't think individually I had anything to do with it.” -- LeBron James
"So if I had anything to do with it, which I don't; there's too many players, there's so many great players I don't think individually I had anything to do with it. Just trying to do my part."
In an interview with foxsports.com on Friday, Stern said he still wishes James would have chosen a different way to announce he was leaving Cleveland for Miami in the offseason instead of a one-hour TV special.
League-wide attendance is up about a half-percent, according to the NBA. Miami has been averaging nearly 2,000 more fans a night. But TV ratings have been higher -- more than 30 percent so far compared to last year.
"I think it's great. I think with our team, with the Knicks being a global icon, them being good once again, the Celtics and Lakers always being good and a lot of other teams. Orlando, some more surprise teams in this league, but I think it's great any time you have great basketball around the league, and great competition helps," he said.
But Stern said he believed some of the ratings boost came from the offseason free agent frenzy for James that culminated in a one-hour TV special dubbed "The Decision."
"I think when you have so many people tune into an event -- some of whom have never watched a game before -- it does raise the interest of a certain number of people to tune into the games," Stern told foxsports.com.
Stern said he still believed James should have chosen "a little bit different way" to announce he was leaving Cleveland for Miami in a move that was widely criticized at the time.
Stern also said he and James have a good relationship and that the most scrutinized player in the league is booed as "theater" and not because he's actually a villain in the eyes of fans.
"I think that LeBron is growing into his influence and potential power," the commissioner said. "I think he is working hard to be a good ambassador for himself and the game."
James and the rest of the Heat have certainly proven to be entertaining in their first season together -- jokingly referring to themselves as the "Heatles" after the Beatles for attracting big road crowds.
Miami has snapped off 19 wins in 20 games since a 9-8 start and has an 11-game road winning streak. If the Heat win all five games of this current trip, they'll tie the Lakers' NBA record of 16 straight victories away from home in 1971-72.
"Funny thing is we've heard a lot of boos for the first few quarters and either late in the third or the fourth quarter, we've heard some cheers," James said.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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