SACRAMENTO -- The Heat’s LeBron James doesn’t plan to buy the Kings, but Sacramento holds a special place in his heart.
The first time LeBron James visited Sacramento, he was a nervous rookie playing in his first NBA game. On the eve of possibly his final game in California’s capital, the city’s mayor asked James to buy the Kings.
James was the guest speaker of a charity event at the Sacramento Hyatt on Friday night hosted by Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, who played in the NBA for 12 seasons and was a three-time All-Star.
The event raised money for Johnson’s charity, St. HOPE. Near the end of a Q&A session with Johnson in front about 1,000 people, James was asked, jokingly, to buy the Kings, which will most likely relocate its franchise next season.
“I think one of the themes that has come out, clearly, is [James] wants to be the first, he wants to do things different, so, are you interested in owning a basketball team?” Johnson said.
Johnson has worked to keep the Kings in Sacramento. Mention of the hot-button topic sent the packed ballroom into laughter and applause.
“We got a team for sale in Sacramento,” Johnson said. “So, should I have my people talk to your people? How does that work?”
After a dramatic pause, James said, “That is how it works.”
James then motioned to his personal manager and lifelong friend Randy Mims and said, “Randy, did you bring my checkbook.”
After another round of applause, James added, “I’ve got to check with my savings and figure out how I can make that work.”
Johnson shot back, “Y’all heard him, right? We’re going to have to talk to [NBA commissioner David] Stern how a current player can own a team that he doesn’t even play on and plays 3,000 miles away…”
James kept the laughs going.
“For some odd reason, LeBron never plays against Sac,” James said. “What’s up with that?”
The Heat played the Sacramento Kings late Saturday night.
James doesn’t have any plans to buy an NBA franchise … yet … but, in all seriousness, the city of Sacramento will always hold a special place in James’ heart.
It was at ARCO Arena where James played his first game as an NBA rookie. He scored on his first shot, a 16-foot baseline jumper. His first dunk came near the end of the first quarter.
For James, the possibility of no longer visiting Sacramento once a year for games sent him down memory lane Thursday and again Friday.
“I was nervous. I was excited. It was like a dream come true for me,” James said of his first game. “I couldn’t sleep the night before. I take a nap before every game my whole career — didn’t get a nap that day.
“My friends and family was in town. It was like a long awaited day for everyone. Not just me — everyone was waiting to see what I was going to do.”
James didn’t disappoint. He had 25 points, shooting 12 of 20 from the field, to go along with nine assists, six rebounds and four steals.
James blossomed into a national celebrity as a high school player and he called his long-awaited first game as a professional “a damn zoo.”
“I couldn’t even stretch,” James said. “There was like 150 cameras on the court. I don’t know how they let that happen. It was like 190 cameras in the locker room when I got there. I have no idea how I played that game at a high level.
“I guess I was just excited to play the game and I didn’t care about nothing else.”