Cody Norman, Staff Writer

There is just something about multi-million dollar athletes that cause people to mistake them for superhuman beings with fat pockets and big heads.

I was given the unique opportunity to explore the depths of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ locker room before and after the game on Saturday night Nov. 14 against the Utah Jazz.

I discovered that the exact opposite was true of these professionals. They’re just people like you and me.

5:45 p.m.

I arrived at the Quicken Loans Arena and took a walk down to the court. While standing courtside, Zydrunas Ilgauskas finished his warm-up, and prior to returning to the locker room, “Z” stopped to acknowledge each and every fan that called his name from the bottom row of the arena.

He spent several minutes signing autographs and posing for pictures with Cavaliers fans and even a few Jazz fans along the way.

I was impressed with Z’s willingness to laugh and joke with his fans after 11 years of being in the league. He was and still is a true class act.

6 p.m.

Head Coach Mike Brown typically speaks to the media for about 90 minutes before the opening tip. The Cleveland coach recognized many of the reporters and called them by name during his interview.

I was impressed that a man of Brown’s stature would make it a point to learn the name of many members of the media.

He also took a step back from his professional life and was able to communicate with these reporters and fans on a more personal level.

6:15 p.m.

Following Coach Brown’s comments, the locker room was opened up to the media. As many of you are well aware, LeBron James is a huge Ohio State Buckeyes fan.

LeBron sat on the floor, cheered on his Buckeyes and sang along to the music playing from the headphones beside him. LeBron refused to formally speak to the media prior to the conclusion of the game, but he carried on conversations with many of the men in the room.

“The King” may be one of the most recognizable human beings in the world, but as I sat watching the game with LeBron James, I realized that he really is a human being just like the rest of us.

He has a very humble personality and, believe it or not, LeBron gets as excited about a Buckeyes victory as much as anyone else in Ohio.

As I looked around the locker room, I noticed an enormous pair of shoes sitting at my feet. At first glance, I thought it may have been a full-size speedboat or cot set up for Mo Williams until I noticed the letters S-H-A-Q written across the top. A size 23 shoe sounds big, but you just don’t realize how big it really is until you see it in person.

Obviously, LeBron was not the only one in the locker room. Darnell Jackson spent a lot of his time watching the game with LeBron and he too displays extraordinary character.

“D-Block” exited the locker room and hit the weight room for about 20 minutes before returning, with his muscles flexed.

Delonte West and Anderson Varejao were in and out of the locker room throughout our visit, and both players were incredibly polite each time they entered and exited; both players acknowledged our presence and said, “Excuse me” if they ever needed to squeeze past us.

Following a game-winning field goal by the Buckeyes, LeBron James was ready to speak to the media.

One of the reporters asked the King about his announcement to change his number saying, “Why the No. 6? Why not choose a number that nobody has ever worn before?” LeBron joked by saying, “What do you mean, like No. 72 or something? I mean there’s not many numbers that nobody has ever worn before.” Everyone, including LeBron, laughed.

6:45 p.m.

After we spoke to LeBron, I headed back out to watch some of the players warm up from courtside.

Like Z, Jamario Moon and Anthony Parker both signed autographs and posed for pictures to show their respect and appreciation for Cleveland fans.

It was incredible to see these two guys displaying such gratitude toward their fans after only nine games with the Wine and Gold.

7:30 p.m.

Prior to opening tip and the announcing of starting lineups, the Cavaliers made an effort to thank both present and former members of our military on their Military Salute Night.

Coach Mike Brown paced back, forth, up and down the court while he welcomed and thanked the members of our military.

Brown explained that he came from a military family; his father was in the Air Force, so the coach grew up exposed to the military and has a great amount of respect for those individuals.

On a night when the Wine and Gold were without Shaquille O’Neal, the Cavs still held their own in the paint behind yet another solid performance by J.J. Hickson. Just two nights after setting a career-high in points, the sophomore forward shined again, scoring 20 points on 7 of 13 from the field in 38 minutes of work.

Cleveland led through three quarters of play but caved on a late surge by Utah and surrendered the lead with 1:56 to play on a free throw by former Cavalier Carlos Boozer. Then the King stole the show. LeBron James scored the last 8 points for his team and finished the game with 21 points on 6 of 15 from the field while gathering 6 boards and finding his teammates on 9 assists. The second half of the Cavs’ dynamic duo, Mo Williams, added 21 points and 6 assists of his own on the night.

Cleveland continued their sweet-shooting ways from downtown, going 9 of 22 from deep. Prized free agent acquisitions Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon led the three-point assault, canning four and three tres respectably. Parker finished with 14 points on the night while Moon chipped in with a solid 11 points and 4 boards in just over 16 minutes of play.

After a rocky start, the Cavaliers have settled in and will carry a four game win streak back into the Q for Tuesday night’s contest with the Golden State Warriors.

10 p.m.

Following an intense game, we waited out in the tunnel for Mike Brown to speak. While we were all crowded around the coach’s normal spot, I felt a large hand touch my shoulder and a deep voice utter, “Excuse me, man.”

When I turned to see who it was that touched my shoulder, I was staring at the “Big Witness Protection’s” knee caps! It was unreal.

According to, a giant is defined as a ”being with human form but superhuman size, strength, etc.” Of course, that is Shaq.

Then, out came Mike Brown to speak to the media; before any questions were asked, Brown said, “I’d like to open up by saying I have the utmost respect for Jerry Sloan. He’s a great coach and everything about him is just a class act . . . I love his demeanor. I love the way he coaches his team.”

Brown, himself, is a classy individual. And the way he carries himself is mirrored by his entire team. The coach went on to praise J.J. Hickson for another excellent game and went on to describe Anderson Varejao as his “glue guy.”

He said, “[Andy] holds everything together. It doesn’t matter what lineup is out there, you know that you can always go to him and he can keep it together. Whether it’s at the 4 or the 5 spot.”

Coach Brown then described the role that LeBron had in Saturday night’s matchup. He referred to his superstar as Picasso on Thursday night and called him Rembrandt on Saturday.

He then said, “What LeBron did on the floor at the end of the game was awesome. He put everybody in the right position to keep bodies on bodies and contest the shot. So LeBron, defensively and as a coach on the last couple of plays, was off the charts. It just speaks volumes to his intelligence and his feel for the game.”

10:15 p.m.

The locker room was reopened to the media and, again, LeBron spoke about the game. After LeBron’s comments, we were left waiting for JJ Hickson to come out of the shower.

While we waited, I was able to talk to Danny Green about his plans for Sunday. Outside of his daily workout, Danny said Sunday was a “chill day.” He said he would be resting and watching football for most of the day following his workout.

When Hickson came out and sat at his locker, he willingly spoke to the media about the game and paid a lot of respect to LeBron James for mentoring him throughout the summer.

Hickson talked about his ability to make good decisions on the floor and his outstanding play as of late.
The sophomore forward said, “Like Coach said, I’m just making basketball plays. I’m being smart on the floor and taking the open shot. I understand my role. I think that is a big part of it, [that I] understand my role. Knowing that I have LeBron James and Mo Williams out there, I just have to space the floor and take advantage of it when I do get my shots.”

After my experience with the Cavaliers, it was incredible for me to see the human side of each of these individuals.

They are amazing athletes, but off of the hardwood floor, these guys are high-character individuals. And it made me proud to be a Cavaliers fan.