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Cavs Notes

LeBron describes NCAA as corrupt organization in pre-game remarks


Two days after being praised by San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich for his willingness to speak out on issues, Cavaliers small forward LeBron James tackled the current scandals surrounding major college athletics and raved about the movie "Black Panther."

In a lighter moment, the four-time league MVP even joked about the potholes on Interstate 480 when asked about billboards urging him to sign with the Philadelphia 76ers in the offseason.

"The NCAA is corrupt," James said Tuesday prior to a game against the Brooklyn Nets at Quicken Loans Arena. "We know that. Sorry. It's going to make headlines, but it's corrupt."

James, who entered the NBA at age 18 straight out of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High, said the current scandals involving athletes in major sports receiving money under the table are nothing new.

"It's what's been going on for many, many, many, many years," he said. "I don't know how you can fix it. I don't see how you can fix it.

"I don't know all the ins and outs about it," he added. "I don't know all the rules and regulations about it. But I do know what five-star athletes bring to a campus, both in basketball and football. I know how much these college coaches get paid. I know how much these colleges are gaining off these kids."

Asked about the most outlandish offer he received prior to declaring for the NBA Draft, James laughed and declined to answer.

"Me and my mom (Gloria) was poor, I'll tell you that," he said. "If they expected me to step foot on a college campus and not go to the NBA, then we weren't going to be poor for long, I'll tell you that. That's a fact."

James said he understands the theory that college athletic scholarships can help pay for an education that would cost in the neighborhood of $200,000 at some universities, but said that doesn't apply to many of the upper-echelon stars who commit to major programs.

"I've always heard the narrative they get a free education," he said. "But you guys aren't bringing me on campus to get an education. You guys are bringing me on it to help you get to a Final Four or to a national championship."

James said he plans to speak with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver regarding an expansion of the G League or formation of another type of "farm system."

The 33-year-old doesn't have an exact plan worked out, but he suggested a format similar to leagues in Europe, where 16- and 17-year-olds who don't want to go to college could learn the ropes.

"I'm not a fan of the NCAA," James said. "I love watching March Madness. I think that's incredible. I'm not a fan of how the kids don't benefit from none of this. It's kind of a fine line, because I've actually got a couple boys who could be heading in that direction. As a family, we've got some decisions to make."

** James and wife Savannah saw the movie "Black Panther" on Monday -- the couple's two boys had already seen it -- and the 15th-year pro loved it so much he plans to see it several more times.

"It's one of the greatest movies I've ever seen," James said. "There's so many different reasons why. At this time and place in the society we're in right now, it's perfect timing."

The movie is about a black superhero named T'Challa, who returns home to take his place as king of the technologically advanced nation of Wakanda.

James compared the timing of the movie to Larry Bird and Magic Johnson entering the then-floundering NBA together, then to Michael Jordan entering the league.

"It's almost like when somebody found out how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich," he added. "It was like the greatest thing that happened at that point in time. 'Black Panther' is that."

James said he was a big fan of superheroes growing up but none of them were black, so he idolized athletes and music artists instead.

"For me as a kid growing up, I never thought I'd see a black superhero," he said, adding, "It's so great to have that type of positive feel in such a negative time going on right now. ... It's dope. I'm proud to be an African American watching that movie right now, I'll tell you that."

** When asked if he had been on I-480 lately, James initially joked about potholes and said people should be careful with their cars.

In an abnormally long 17-minute session with the media at the team's morning shootaround, it was obvious he knew the real question was about billboards urging him to play for the 76ers next season.

"It's not a distraction," James said. "It's actually very flattering that I'm sitting here at 33 in my 15th year and ... people in their respective city want me to play for them. That's cool, I think. That's dope."

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or Follow him on Twitter @RickNoland.

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