OK, let's get this out of the way right off the bat -- I've never really been much of a LeBron James fan.
I'm not sure how much of that was sparked by "The Decision" when it took a TV special for LeBron to tell us he was fleeing Cleveland for Miami. Really? I'm pretty sure there are scores of Cleveland seniors who do that on their own every winter.
Or perhaps it's been that I've always seen King James as a pretender to the Michael Jordan throne. The jester stealing his thorny crown, so to speak. Yay, not a big fan.
But LeBron just may have won me over Wednesday night. By now most of you have probably seen the video.
James sitting on the edge of the scorer's table, waiting for play to resume as referees review videotape during an NBA exhibition game at Xavier University in Cincinnati.
Seated in the immediate rows behind the table are at least eight or 10 young boys, probably ranging from age six to 12, trying to get close to their hero.
And in today's world that means there's a selfie happening in there somewhere.
Nonchalantly, as the boys bounce around behind him, James turns around, takes one of their cellphones, leans back on the scorer's table and snaps a selfie before handing the phone back to the kid and returning his attention to what's happening on the basketball court in front of him.
As I watched that unfold, all I could think of was Mickey Mantle. Yes, Mickey Mantle, finally muttering to myself, "Darn you, Mickey Mantle."
You see, I have a long-held grudge against most Americans' baseball idol from the 1950s and '60s. Had he been as accommodating as King James was the other night, I would have had a Mickey Mantle autographed baseball and a moment to cherish for a lifetime.
But no, instead I got rhetoric and the cold shoulder from "The Mick."
OK, so I was probably an annoying 11- or 12-year-old at the time, but during a lengthy rain delay at old Comiskey Park on the South Side of Chicago, I had stealthily maneuvered my way down alongside the Yankee dugout in search of autographs. Baseball and pen in hand, I sidled up to the end of the dugout and leaned over the gate to look inside.
There, magically just a couple feet away, poking through the bat rack under the overhang was Mickey Mantle.
Yep, Mickey Mantle. Just like Marilyn Monroe and M&Ms, making those repetitive initials so doubly delicious for a decade of young boys.
I seized the moment, probably hollering his name eleventy-seven times before Mantle even looked my way.
He raised his eyes to meet mine, my heart skipping a beat as it stopped me dead in my tracks.
To this day, I'll never forget what he said as I extended ball and ballpoint for him to sign.
"Son," he said so seriously, "league rules prohibit me from signing any autographs once the game starts."
That's all I heard, even though he mumbled some adult excuse like "If I sign for you, I'll have to sign for everybody" even though no one else was standing in the box seats in the rain to pester one of the greatest players of all time.
Of course, in the time he took to say all that, he could have easily scrawled that distinctive "Mickey Mantle" I had come to cherish on every Louisville Slugger I used as a Little Leaguer.
Yep, that's why I have new appreciation for LeBron today. His simple act in the middle of a professional basketball game -- albeit an exhibition -- is something those kids will remember all their lives. And that, to me, has humanized a true sports giant.
Darn you, Mickey Mantle!
Here's a link to the video