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LeBron James As Himself

Last Wednesday, Vanity Fair fêted LeBron James at Monkey Bar to celebrate the memoir, Shooting Stars, that he wrote with VF contributing editor Buzz Bissinger. The book, which chronicles James's childhood and high-school basketball career, had just come out the day before, and not even his mom had read it yet. ("But, you know, she lived it," James said.) Even though he now has an Amazon ranking, James doesn't have much time for books; it took him ten minutes to remember the last book he read, Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers (which he recommends). Before that was Bissinger's Friday Night Lights, which he liked so much that he asked Bissinger to be his collaborator.

One thing James may soon be fitting into his packed schedule is a film career. As Graydon Carter's friends patiently stood by waiting for an autograph, James engaged in a lengthy chat with director Ron Howard. It turns out that Howard's partner at Imagine Films, Brian Grazer, had met with James a month ago to discuss a substantial role in the latest comedy from Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, the writing team behind Parenthood, Splash, A League of Their Own, and City Slickers. "Ganz and Mandel had an idea, a very funny idea," Howard explained, "and they said, 'There's this character and this character and that character, and, you know, it would be great if this guy was LeBron James and he was playing himself. And it's a big role; it's not just a walk-on cameo." Howard hadn't been able to make the initial meeting with Grazer, so he'd come by to give James an update. "LeBron would have a very important role and it's early on, so we were talking about script development and the process and what that's like."

A pickup game between the two is unlikely, though, because Howard, who says he can hold his own "with guys my age, if they're mediocre enough," makes it a rule not to play ball with his actors — because he doesn't want to hurt THEM. "I get competitive," he explained, "and if Hanks or Russell Crowe or Mel Gibson gets a bloody nose in the middle of a game with me, it doesn't help our rapport and it's hell on the shooting schedule." As for LeBron's plotline or even the name of this mysterious comedy, Howard and James both refused to dish.

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Photo: Patrick McMullan