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As birthday bashes go, Salt Lake City, Utah would not exactly be considered a destination point, especially for the man recognized as the best basketball player on the planet.
However, Salt Lake City, specifically, Vivint Smart Home Arena, is where LeBron James will celebrate his 33rd birthday tonight as he and his Cleveland Cavalier teammates take on the Utah Jazz. For the record, James’ 29.4 career points per game against Utah represents the second-highest mark against any opponent in his career.
James, always out- and well-spoken, didn’t disappoint when asked about what it means not only be healthy, wealthy and a year older, but to be playing a game on his birthday.
“It’s always great to get to live another year,” James said. “I don’t take those moments for granted. And not only to be able to live another year, I get to play an NBA game on my birthday.
“That’s like icing on the cake, literally, for your birthday.”
Now in his 15th NBA season, tonight’s game will mark only the seventh time James has played on his birthday. He’s spent 11 years as a Cavalier, sandwiched around four seasons with the Miami Heat.
Never one to shrivel in the glare of the spotlight, James has raised the bar on his immense game even more in his birthday.
James is averaging 33.5 points, 7.5 boards and 6.7 dimes, while shooting 56 percent from the field, including 47 percent from beyond the arc (15 of 32).
Part of any discussion regarding the greatest basketball player in history, James shares a birthday with a man in the same discussion in regards to golf, Tiger Woods.
“It’s my born day, it’s my birthday,” James said. “You want to perform well on your birthday and I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few games on my birthday.”
While the Cavaliers will do their best to celebrate James’ birthday on the hardwood tonight against the Jazz (tipoff at 8, EST), they did so in a different, less-public manner on Thursday.
The Cavaliers’ traveling party toured Napa Valley. While there, they visited the Mayacamas and Brand wineries and the Goose and Gander restaurant. A handful players and assistant coaches also spent some time at Maisonry winery.
“You guys see us every day. Just imagine that with a lot of wine,” he said. “It wasn’t nothing like anything happened and we’re like, ‘Oh, we’ve got to keep that secret.’ We hung together as a whole organization, teammates, [FOX Sports Ohio play-by-play announcer] Fred [McLeod], we were all together. We had a heckuva time.
“I’ve got some really good friends out here who own some great vineyards and some great grapes and they allowed us to tour some of their great places.”
Not everyone with the Cavalier partook, however,
Head coach Tyronn Lue and rookies Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic, do not drink alcohol.
“Cedi and Z … they kind of just had water,” James said. “That’s their loss. … More for me.”