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LeBron James blessed to see 33rd birthday in Utah: ‘The way I grew up, not many guys make it past 18’

SALT LAKE CITY — A seasoned veteran welcomed a mob of media into his visitor’s locker room stall at Vivint Arena Saturday.

After logging 37 minutes of action, Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James was still in good spirits after a 104-101 loss to the Utah Jazz — his seventh straight in the building.

The man has been all around the world, experiencing things that average men and women won’t ever witness.

But Gloria James' only child from Akron, Ohio, still exists in the now 33-year-old man.

James celebrated birthday No. 33 in Salt Lake City Saturday with 29 points, eight rebounds, six assists and an uncharacteristic six turnovers.

“Much respect to Jazz nation and everyone here,” James recalled. “I heard a lot of cheers when I was introduced, a lot of cheers when I ran out on the floor, a lot of happy birthday signs and they got the best of both worlds tonight.

“They got to sing happy birthday to me tonight and the Jazz won, so that’s the icing on the cake for everyone here.”

This particular game was certainly forgettable, but his journey to reaching this point was far from that.

“Listen, when you come from where I come from, it doesn’t matter where your birthday is,” James said during shootaround. “I’m 33 years old, and the way I grew up, not many guys make it past 18. So, I’m blessed to be in this position where I am today, and I don’t take this moment for granted.”

The three-time NBA champion and four-time MVP certainly noticed some of the celebratory birthday videos and posts on social media in his honor, and considers it a blessing. Some stemmed back to as early as grade school.

“For people to chronologize my life, and it’s been under such a microscope since I was 15 years old — it’s scary but it’s also pretty cool to be able to show my kids and also show my grandkids and things of that nature,” James said.

He cited his 18th and 21st birthdays as some of the most memorable.

“When I turned 18, during my senior year and I was like ‘yeah, manhood now. I’m ready,’ but I was nowhere near ready for that, but 18 was good, 21 was cool,” James recalled. “People had known my story for so long that it was always like certain clubs and stuff I used to go to and they was like ‘C’mon LeBron, we know you’re not 21.

“‘We cannot let you in and mess up our liquor license,’ so 21 was pretty cool, too, especially when I went to (Las) Vegas because I was playing USA basketball so much when I turned 21 and went to Vegas that summer, I was so happy to show my ID,” he said. “So those was a couple good ones.”

Jazz guard Rodney Hood asked media not to remind James that he hadn’t won a game in Utah since Dec. 8, 2010, for motivational purposes, but he was certainly aware — although it didn’t happen.

“I need a win here. I suck here,” James said, smiling. “I personally don’t suck, but my team sucks when we come here.”

James has now lost seven straight in Salt Lake City. His last win came as a member of the Miami Heat seven years ago in Utah, but he did just post a triple-double to help the Cavs top the Jazz 109-100 on Dec. 16 in Cleveland with 29 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists to pass Larry Bird for sixth all-time on the career triple-doubles list.

For his career, James averages 29.4 points against Utah — which is his second-highest scoring average against any NBA team behind Boston — with 8.4 rebounds and 7.0 assists. The loss was tough, but he’s still able to keep things into perspective.

His life is now bigger than the game of basketball — and regular season wins and losses don't really matter at this point.

“I don’t think at the end of my career people are going to say, ‘Oh, LeBron did some great things but he lost (seven) in a row versus the Jazz,” James said, smirking. “Nah. It is what it is.

“No one’s going to remember that,” he added. “I don’t think so. Unless we play them in the Finals and I lost seven straight games, but that’s not possible. It would be four games.”