BEREA (AP) — For the first time at Browns training camp, the spotlight wasn’t on Johnny Manziel.
LeBron James stole it.
The NBA megastar got his football fix Thursday, showing up with his two sons to watch Manziel and the Browns practice.
James spent an hour on the sideline as the Browns went through a morning workout in preparation for Saturday’s exhibition opener in Detroit. It was James’ first public appearance since re-signing with the Cavaliers last month, and his appearance caused quite a commotion.
Browns players couldn’t wait to meet him after practice, and several had their photos taken with the four-time MVP, who is noticeably thinner after shedding some weight during the offseason.
James spoke for several minutes with Browns coach Mike Pettine and chatted outside the locker room with Manziel, his close friend and business partner.
“He just asked how camp was going,” Pettine said. “You could tell that he’s into it and loves football, a big Browns fan. He said he’ll be at the games when it’s warm and when it’s cold he’ll be watching in his basement.”
James walked off the field holding hands with his two boys, LeBron Jr. and Bryce, and declined comment saying, “I’ll see you tomorrow.” James’ homecoming to Northeast Ohio is being celebrated with an event in Akron on Friday night.
Pettine also got his photo taken with James, who towered over every group he posed with.
“I do know I’m going to be father of the year now,” Pettine said. “I got my daughter a picture with LeBron. She could care less about a picture with me.
Pettine has had quite a week, meeting Browns Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown for the first time and now James, arguably the world’s best basketball player.
“When I got hired, somebody very quickly brought it up to me that I might have both of those opportunities,” he said. “Two things off the bucket list.”
Before leaving the team’s facility, James and his two sons were presented with No. 23 Browns jerseys that the two boys quickly put on. James took more photos with members of Cleveland’s coaching staff and general manager Ray Farmer.
James’ arrival has given Cleveland fans hope they may one day celebrate a championship. It’s been 50 years since the Browns won the NFL title, the last Cleveland team to win it all.
Pettine believes all three teams can feed off each other, creating a synergy of winning.
“It’s hard to explain when it happens, but I think it kind of gets fed through the fans with the teams. I don’t know how many of them are actual connecting with each other, but I think when the city gets revved up, I think you can have momentum from season to season.”