Speaking ahead of a preseason debut game against Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv, Cleveland Cavaliers star player LeBron James suggested he’d be interested in visiting Israel if given the chance.
Speaking to Israeli reporters Sunday, James said he had not visited Israel in the past, but “I want to look forward to going there if I get an opportunity to,” according to Cleveland.com, the website of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Asked by an Israeli reporter if there was “any chance that LeBron James and Cleveland comes to Tel Aviv,” James said it was “not my decision” and that he had “no idea.”
But after a reporter suggested he had “many fans waiting for you” in Israel, James replied simply, “awesome.”
James is a four-time NBA Most Valuable Player and holds two Olympic gold medals.
Israelis are especially interested in the Maccabi-Cavaliers game Sunday night, because the American team’s new head coach, David Blatt, led Maccabi to victory as the 2014 European champions earlier this year.
Blatt, who led Tel Aviv for four seasons, told JTA from Cleveland last week, “The fact that my first game as an NBA head coach, ironically, is against the team that I was so much a part of is almost overwhelming.”
Guy Goodes, the Tel Aviv assistant who ascended to head coach when Blatt moved to the National Basketball Association, will lead Maccabi against his recently-former boss.
“It’s a show, a circus,” Goodes said earlier this month at Nokia Arena.
Such an atmosphere “is not what a coach wants” in preparing his team for a season, Goodes acknowledged, adding that “it’s not the optimal preparation.”
But Goodes wasn’t grousing. Maccabi’s two exhibition games against NBA clubs — Tel Aviv also plays the Nets in Brooklyn two nights after meeting the Cavs — and Blatt’s hiring bring “honor to Israel,” he said.
By halftime, the Cavaliers led Maccabi 59-44. With 12 points to his name, James was the lead scorer.
JTA contributed to this report.